Kremlin: Turkey to Work with Russia, Iran in Syria Following Ambassador Shooting

Sergey Lavrov, Mohammad Javad Zarif
The Associated Press

Russia and Iran, allies of dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria, met with pro-Syrian opposition Turkey in Moscow on Tuesday and agreed to work on drafting a peace deal and to serve as “guarantors” of any future resolution between the Syrian regime and rebel fighters, according to the Kremlin’s foreign minister (FM).

Moreover, the Russian FM Sergei Lavrov noted that the three countries have agreed to prioritize the fight against terrorism over the removal of Russia- and Iran-backed Assad, who has designated all opposition forces “terrorists.”

Lavrov gleaned his comments from a joint statement prepared on December 20 with his counterparts, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE-RL).

Throughout the war, Turkey has been backing rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have been lending military support to the Syrian regime, allowing the dictator to remain in power and expand the territory under his control.

Monday’s assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov by Turkish police officer Mert Altintas, who shouted the common battle cry of jihadists “Allahu Akbar,” prompted the three countries to move their meeting between their respective foreign and defense ministers up from the scheduled date of December 27.

In a call initiated by Iran on the eve of Monday’s trilateral meeting in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that he wants the Syrian conflict to be resolved as soon as possible, reports Reuters, citing a statement from the Kremlin.

Following Tuesday’s meeting on Syria, Russian FM Lavrov said the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey, Lavrov “agree with the importance of widening the cease-fire, of free access for humanitarian aid, and movement of civilians on Syrian territory.”

Citing the Russian FM, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reports that Russia, Turkey, and Iran have agreed on a “joint declaration” to work on a solution to the ongoing war in Syria.

“Turkish-Russian-Iranian cooperation ensures the evacuation of civilians and armed groups from eastern Aleppo,” declared Lavrov.

Turkey and Russia have denounced Monday’s assassination as an attempt to disrupt efforts by Ankara and Moscow to mend their relationship, which deteriorated after the Turkish military shot down a Russian plane in November 2015.

Turkey has sent mixed messages about Syria in recent months.

In July, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim suggested that there are “not many reasons” for Turkey to fight against any of the countries in its region, which includes Syria.

Then on December 8, as Yildirim declared the end to the nearly year-long hiatus in relations between pro-Assad Moscow and Ankara, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Assad regime of human atrocities and war crimes.

Turkey has also been providing support to anti-Assad rebels.

However, following the recent trilateral meeting, Turkey’s FM Cavusoglu reportedly noted that “The best solution is a political solution. We believe in this. We have to focus on this.”

“We will continue together to pursue our efforts to stop bloodshed in Syria, spread a permanent cease-fire throughout the country, and unhindered humanitarian aid,” he also said, adding that they discussed expanding the truce to the entire country.

The Turkish FM, echoing his Iranian counterpart Zarif, stressed that “Turkey supports the national unity and territorial integrity of all of its neighbors.”

“We will strive to ensure territorial integrity and sovereignty,” added the Iranian FM.

The official from Iran, which has been designated the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism by the United States, urged the global community to cooperate on combating terrorism in Syria and prevent the spread of violence in the war-ravaged country.

Iran-allied armed groups and the Assad forces have been accused of perpetrating violence, including execution-style shootings, against civilians in Aleppo, which has fallen into the hands of Iran, Russia, and Syria.