Hizballah 'should leave Syria as condition for peace'

Hizballah 'should leave Syria as condition for peace'
Turkey's foreign minister said Hizballah should leave Syria, as he announced a new potential ceasefire brokered by Ankara and Moscow.
2 min read
29 December, 2016
Hizballah fighters have supported Assad's soldiers during the war [AFP]

Hizballah should withdraw from Syria, Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday, as he confirmed reports suggesting Ankara and Moscow could soon establish a ceasefire in war-torn Syria.  

The Lebanese group, which has sent thousands of fighters to support President Bashar al-Assad during the five-year conflict, should vacate the fight, Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested.

Cavusoglu also said Turkey and Russia are close to reaching an agreement on a nationwide Syrian ceasefire that would come into effect by the end of the year, according to comments made on an interview with Turkey’s A Haber news channel.

The minister added that Iran has previously stated during talks in Moscow earlier this month, that it will act as a guarantor for the Syrian government as well as allied Shia groups, including Hizballah.

"We are planning to secure this before the beginning of the New Year," he said, adding it was the "will of the leaders" for this to happen.

On Wednesday, Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu  said that Turkey and Russia had agreed a nationwide truce plan for Syria but none of the key players in the conflict offered an immediate confirmation.

Cavusoglu said that if the ceasefire was successful, political negotiations between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition would take place in the Kazakh capital Astana.

But he insisted the Astana talks, overseen by Turkey and Russia, were not a rival to UN-backed talks that have been taking place on-and-off in Geneva in recent years.

"This is not an alternative to Geneva. It is a complementary step," said Cavusoglu. 

"The talks in Astana will be under our supervision," he said, adding which groups will take part remains under discussion.

He said Ankara and Moscow continued intensive efforts to secure the ceasefire.

Russia would act as the regime's "guarantor" in any deal while Turkey would also perform a similar role.

Although Moscow and Ankara are on opposite sides in the civil war with Russia supporting Assad and Turkey calling for him to go, they have begun in the last few months to work closely on Syria.

Relations between Ankara and Moscow were normalised in June after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border in November 2015. 

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from Aleppo after a ceasefire earlier this month brokered by Ankara and Moscow.

Meanwhile, Turkey stood conspicuously quiet as the regime, supported by Russia, took control last week of Aleppo, dealing the biggest defeat for the rebels in the civil war so far.

But Cavusoglu said it was "out of the question" for Turkey to hold any talks with Assad.