Russia, Iran and Turkey hold Syria talks as cracks emerge

Russia, Iran and Turkey hold Syria talks as cracks emerge
The Russian-led talks on Syria continue, despite disagreements between responses to the western-led punitive strikes on Syria.
3 min read
28 April, 2018
Macron suggested air strikes had driven a wedge between Ankara and Moscow [Getty]
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts on Saturday for talks on Syria following an alleged suspicious gas attack that left dozens dead.

The three powers have been working together to speed up the process of finding a political solution in Syria, in which they all vye for influence, as part of the Astana peace process which began last year.

Russian-led peace efforts were the cause of derision after all the official Syrian opposition, rebel factions and the Kurdish delegation boycotted them.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held separate bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and then Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif, who stressed the warmth of their relationship in opening comments. These were to be followed by three-sided talks.

Meeting his Turkish counterpart, the Moscow diplomat stressed the "great importance" both Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attach to improving relations.

Cavusoglu, in translated comments, praised the "atmosphere of trust that has grown up between us" and said the countries had "seriously moved forward on questions of Syria settlement". He said Saturday's meeting would discuss "what further steps can be taken".

Earlier in the month, the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia announced their dedication to 'protecting civilians' and finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria in Ankara’s summit.

Erdogan has previously insisted their meetings and the Astana talks were not an "alternative" to the UN-backed Geneva process to find peace in Syria. However the three leaders are visibly pushing for influence in the region while that of the West is waning.

But the three leaders said "the Astana format had been the only effective international initiative that had helped reduce violence across Syria and had contributed to peace and stability in" the country.

They added that it had given "impetus to the Geneva process in order to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict" in the statement.

"What is foremost for us is getting results. We must get results. We have no tolerance for delays. People are dying here," Erdogan told reporters after the summit.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday urged the three powers to do more, saying they "have not only a responsibility but also an interest in making the ceasefire work".

Eight rounds of talks under United Nations auspices in Geneva have made little headway, with Assad's government taking little interest.

The three countries have been working together despite playing dominating roles on opposing sides of the civil war.

The meeting comes following the US-led punitive strikes in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster".

French President Emmanuel Macron this month suggested the air strikes had driven a wedge between Ankara and Moscow as they have been building increasingly close ties.

This prompted an angry denial from Cavusoglu, who said the countries' relations "are not so weak that the French president can break them".

Despite the vehement denials, Erdogan's response to the punitive western strikes signalled cracks in the alliance.

"I curse those who carried out this massacre," Erdogan said, adding that he welcomed Western air strikes in retaliation as "appropriate".

More than 700,000 people have been displaced since the start of this year alone as Assad has stepped up his offensive against rebel forces, intensifying the humanitarian crisis.