Iran and Turkey 'support Syrian ceasefire and territorial integrity'

Iran and Turkey 'support Syrian ceasefire and territorial integrity'
Despite deep differences and backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, Iranian and Turkish leaders meeting in Tehran said they agree on de-escalating the war ahead of peace talks.
3 min read
06 March, 2016
Turkey's foreign minister (L) met with Iran's moderate President Rouhani (R) over the weekend [Anadolu]

Both Tehran and Ankara support the current Syrian ceasefire and the preservation of Syria's unity, said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

This comes following reports of a "Plan B" in Syria supproted by some powers, which would involve some form of partition.

"There is no difference" between the two countries regarding stopping the war and "providing relief assistance to displaced people," also said the Iranian leader in remarks quoted on Sunday by government-owned daily Iran.

His remarks came during a meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ahead of talks between the Syrian government and opposition later this month.

Turkey is a leading backer of the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran, along with Russia, has strongly backed Assad.

"We may have different views but we cannot change our history or our geography," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Tehran on Saturday.

"It is extremely important for Turkey and Iran to develop some common perspectives in order to end our region's fight among brothers, to stop the ethnic and sectarian conflicts."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the sentiment.

"We believe regional issues should only be resolved by the regional countries and nations. Iran and Turkey's cooperation would be constructive in bringing lasting peace to the region."

The talks between Iran and Turkey have also focused on bilateral trade. The removal of sanctions on Iran means the two neighbours can easily exceed their previous trade target of $30 billion annually, Davutoglu said.

Turkey has trailed other European countries eager to tap into Iran's $400 billion economy after world powers, led by the United States, reached an agreement with Tehran last year that seeks to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Turkey is a leading backer of the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran, along with Russia, has strongly backed Assad.

Peace talks next week

The meeting, days before the planned resumption of Syrian peace talks in Geneva, also focused on a ceasefire that is largely holding in Turkey's war-torn neighbour.

Syria peace talks are to resume on March 10, the UN envoy said on Saturday, despite opposition reluctance and its backers Saudi Arabia saying President Bashar al-Assad must step down.

The new round of indirect negotiations between the Damascus regime and the opposition will be the first since a truce between government forces and rebels began more than a week ago.

A spokesman for the main opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee, told AFP it has still not decided whether to attend.

"The HNC has not taken a decision yet," Monzer Makhos said.

"We are waiting for progress on the humanitarian issue and respect for the ceasefire. What has happened so far is not enough for us to participate."

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat that the peace talks would start Thursday.

He said preparatory meetings will be held ahead of "in-depth discussions separately" which each faction.

Since the failure of a first round of peace talks in 2014, the main sticking point in the negotiations has been the fate of Assad.

The UN envoy said that the Syrian people, not foreigners, should decide Assad's fate.

But key opposition backer Riyadh on Saturday called for Assad – whose clan has ruled Syria for more than half a century – to step down at the start of any transition.

"Assad has to leave at the beginning of the process," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris.

Peace talks in early February were cut short amid intensifying Russian airstrikes in Syria in support of Assad's forces.

A regime advance supported by Russian warplanes inflicted serious setbacks on the rebels and weakened the opposition's position in negotiations.

However, a fragile ceasefire drawn up by Russia and the United States with UN Security Council backing is now in its second week, despite accusations of violations.

With agencies.