Russia, Turkey, Iran drawing up 'roadmap' to end Syrian crisis

Foreign ministers from the three countries met without representatives from the Syrian government, rebels, US or UN in wake of fatal attack on the Russian ambassador to Turkey

Tuesday 20 December 2016 18:50
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 Syrians who were evacuated from the last rebel-held pockets of the northern city of Aleppo, arrive in the opposition-controlled Khan al-Assal
Syrians who were evacuated from the last rebel-held pockets of the northern city of Aleppo, arrive in the opposition-controlled Khan al-Assal

Russia, Iran and Turkey say they are ready to help broker a peace deal to end the almost six-year-long conflict in Syria after meeting in Moscow.

Foreign ministers from the three countries met for planned talks in the wake of the assassination of the Russian envoy to Turkey in Ankara on Monday. Meanwhile, in Syria, the last rebels and civilians continued to pour out of the embattled city of Aleppo.

Speaking after the meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov predicted that the city would be completely empty of rebel supporters in the next two days, signalling a new era in the complicated conflict.

It is widely expected that the Syrian, Turkish, US and Gulf backed rebels – now without an urban stronghold following the loss of east Aleppo – will need to make significant changes to their military strategy if they are to have any hope of remaining a major player in the war.

Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed that the priority in Syria is to fight Isis and terrorism rather than remove the government of Bashar al-Assad, Mr Lavrov said, which marks a change in Turkey’s previous stance.

Relations between Moscow and Ankara have thawed somewhat in recent months, despite the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in the Turkish capital by an off-duty Turkish police officer on Monday night.

Russia called the attack a “provocation” that would not derail the Syria peace process.

The troika set out the terms that should be followed for opening access to humanitarian aid and an extended ceasefire, before restarting the peace process in a document called “The Moscow Declaration”.

Man shouts 'We die in Aleppo, you die here' after shooting dead Russian ambassador to Turkey

“Iran, Russia and Turkey are ready to facilitate the drafting of an agreement, which is already being negotiated, between the Syrian government and the opposition, and to become its guarantors,“ the declaration read.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added that support should be halted for all groups from abroad who go to Syria, saying it was wrong to “only point the finger at one side”.

Turkey’s military operation to push Isis from the town of al-Bab would continue, he added. Turkish military intervention in the war since August had angered the Syrian government, which called it a violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

The assault does “not have a secret agenda”, Mr Cavusoglu added.

The troika met without consulting the US, UN, or other parties on the ground inside Syria, citing the ineffectiveness of previous pushes for peace talks.

The Russian foreign ministry also said today that UN-brokered negotiations in Geneva on the Syrian crisis had hit a dead end due to ultimatums from the Syrian opposition in exile.

“All previous attempts by the United States and its partners to agree on coordinated actions were doomed to failure,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said. “None of them wielded real influence over the situation on the ground.”

Russia hopes to convene new peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana shortly.

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