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Syria: Moscow, Tehran and Ankara display unity

Ⓒ AFP – Alexander NEMENOV – | Iranian Foreign Ministers Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russian Sergei Lavrov and Turkish Mevlut Cavusoglu join hands at the end of a press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 28, 2018

Meeting on Saturday in Moscow to revive the search for a settlement of the conflict in Syria, the heads of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomacy displayed their unity and stressed the importance of the Astana process.

Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif gathered to discuss the possible outcomes of the war that has ravaged Syria for over seven years, where the three countries have become masters of the game.

Following bilateral and trilateral discussions, which lasted only a handful of hours, the three ministers mainly displayed their unity and stressed the importance of the Astana process. Launched in May 2017 by Ankara, Moscow and Tehran, it has enabled the establishment of four “de-escalation zones” in Syria.

“For the political dialogue, Astana has done more than the other negotiating processes,” said Sergei Lavrov, assuring that he “stands firm on his legs” thanks to the “unique cooperation” between the three countries.

“Those who criticize the Astana process must have their own goals, such as trying to show the world that they decide all the world’s affairs, but that time is over,” he added.

– “Some nuances” –

The three ministers also reaffirmed their unity, while the quest for a settlement of the Syrian conflict, which has made more than 350,000 dead since 2011, skates because of the conflicting interests of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran and their differences on the fate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Moscow and Tehran are the allies of Damascus while Ankara supports Syrian rebels. Despite these “some nuances, Turkey, Russia and Iran have the same concern that is to help the Syrians,” said Lavrov.

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The last summit between the three countries dates back to early April in Ankara. Presidents Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rohani pledged to cooperate to achieve a “sustainable ceasefire” in Syria.

Since then, their unity has been undermined by the regime’s alleged chemical attack on Duma’s rebel stronghold and retaliatory strikes by Washington, Paris and London against Syrian targets.

Turkey hailed the strikes as an “appropriate” response as Russia and Iran stepped up to defend Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

At the opening of the meeting, Sergei Lavrov met with Mevlüt Cavusoglu and welcomed the frequency of Russian-Turkish meetings, with the Turk welcoming the “atmosphere of trust between our two countries to resolve regional issues”.

Ⓒ AFP – Alexander NEMENOV – | Talks on Syria, with Russian Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov, Turkish Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Moscow on April 28, 2018

However, in the opinion of the political scientist Alexandre Choumiline, center for conflict analysis in the Middle East of Moscow, the alleged chemical attack has “created a crack in the union between these three countries”.

And according to Alexei Malashenko, head of the Institute of the Dialogue of Civilizations, the trio is a “very unstable alliance” with irreconcilable positions.

– More “flexible” –

Before the meeting, Russian diplomacy had indicated that the negotiations would focus on the humanitarian situation. “Providing assistance to the Syrian people should not be conditioned by a political goal,” said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

In this regard, Sergei Lavrov called on the Syrian regime to be more “flexible”, a UN humanitarian convoy to supply Duma having been blocked by Damascus.

Saturday evening, the latter informed the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of the “main results” of this meeting, during a telephone interview, said in a statement the Russian diplomacy.

“Russia is always open to dialogue with all partners in order to (reach) a settlement of the Syrian crisis,” she added, while French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Russia in late May. .

In Brussels on Wednesday, the head of the European Union’s diplomacy Federica Mogherini insisted that “Russia and Iran put pressure on Damascus to agree to sit down at the negotiating table. under the auspices of the United Nations “.

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