- By Amir Islamovic
Russia, Iran & Turkey meet without the USA to broker peace talks in Syria
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Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to try to broker peace talks between the US backed militants trying to overthrow the elected government and Assad’s ruling government. They also aim to expand the fragile ceasefire in Aleppo to other parts of the country, Moscow’s official statement read.
The three regional powers most deeply involved in trying to preserve stability in Syria amidst a long and complex war met for an unprecedented summit in Moscow. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said they had reached significant agreements.
“Iran, Russia and Turkey are ready to assist in preparing the agreement in the making between the Syrian government and the opposition and to become its guarantor.” Lavrov said.
“The ministers agree with the importance of widening the ceasefire, of free access for humanitarian aid and movement of civilians on Syrian territory.”
Turkey has been longtime backer of the opposition fighters in Syria along with the US and UK, opposition fighters most countries hold as terrorists trying to overthrow the governmnet. Whilst Russia and Iran have strongly supported the elected Assad government throughout the five-year Syrian war.
But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently dropped his demand that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad step down from power and muted his criticism of Russian bombing in Syria.
Moscow and Ankara jointly brokered a deal this month to allow for the evacuation of thousands of civilians and fighters from rebel areas of Aleppo.
It remains to be seen if Russia and Turkey can pull off the more ambitious goal of a nationwide ceasefire and eventually full peace talks.
Russia and the Syrian regime have broken ceasefire agreements in the past while Turkey may not have the influence over rebel groups to force them to stop fighting.
Turkey’s flip flopping approach of swinging between support for the western backed regime change and Russia and Iran backed peace objectives may prove too costly when it comes to regional respect and influence for Turkey’s input to carry much weight.
However the summit in Moscow vividly illustrated the new power dynamics around Syria and the Middle-East in general, as former rivals Russia and Turkey sat across the table from each other while the US was not even invited to the talks.
The US said that it was not worried about being left out of the discussion. A State Department spokesman said it welcomed any solutions that “lead to a reduction in bloodshed…whether or not we’re at the table”.
Yet many see this as the closing chapter in the US decline of power and global influence.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, raised objections over the role that the Lebanese party, Hizbollah, was playing in Syria but his Russian and Iranian counterparts appeared eager to avoid an argument on the subject.
The talks took place under the shadow of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey but the killing did not seem to hamper discussions.
The Iranian foreign minister’s bodyguards could be seen closely watching the Turkish security men, perhaps out of fear that one of them would pull out a gun.
Evacuations from the last remaining opposition fighters’ areas of eastern Aleppo continued early this week and activists said there were now as few as 3’000 people left waiting to get out.
Many civilians wept as they left their city behind for a new and uncertain life in the countryside. After receiving a message of congratulations on reaching safety, one man said: “I’m not sure if you should congratulate me for getting displaced safely.”
It is believed that approximately 25’000 people have been evacuated since the process began last week.
People are also being evacuated from two government held villages which have been under siege by western backed opposition militants.
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