Moscow and Tehran on Wednesday confirmed their intention to continue preparations to hold the Syrian National Dialogue conference scheduled in Sochi at the end of the month, while the outlines of a dispute appeared between Turkey on one side and Russia and Iran on the other, against the backdrop of their leniency toward the escalation carried out by regime forces in Idleb province.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif held discussions in Moscow Wednesday which focused on the situation in Syria and the Iranian nuclear issue. Lavrov commenced the meeting by confirming the ongoing preparations for the Sochi conference, and said: “We are now at a very responsible stage of preparations for our tripartite Russian-Iranian-Turkish initiative on holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.”
He expressed his conviction that, “without our initiatives, starting with the Astana process launched a year ago, the Geneva talks would not have been so important for all the participants in this process.” He stressed that “Sochi’s success is a basic condition for the success of the talks in Geneva.” The Russian minister added that progress in the Syrian negotiations is related primarily to the progress of work against the Syrian opposition.
Zarif stressed “Iran’s continued cooperation with Russia and Turkey in the issue of the political settlement in Syria and preparation for the Sochi conference.” He expressed his country’s hope that, “the Syrian National Dialogue conference would help in finding a political solution to be a basic step to continue toward sustainable peace in Syria.”
The lack of reference to Turkey in Lavrov’s speech was notable as it is the third guarantor to the cease-fire in Syria, as well as a participant in the crystallization of the Astana deals and preparation for the Sochi conference. This comes amid heightened tensions between the two sides over the regime forces’ advance in Idleb’s environs.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu invited Moscow and Tehran to work to stop the regime forces' violations in the de-escalation zone in Idleb. The Russian Defense Ministry called on Ankara yesterday to implement its obligations guaranteeing the armed factions loyal to it observe the cessation of hostilities agreement and to promote work in the context of deploying observation points in the Idleb de-escalation zone.
The Russian Defense Ministry's Red Star newspaper quoted a military source as saying the drones which had attacked its Hmeimeem and Tartous bases days ago were launched from the southwest of the de-escalation zone under armed factions of the Syrian opposition considered moderate.
It added that the Russian Defense Ministry had sent two messages to the Turkish chief of staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and the head of the Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, in which it stressed the need for both sides to comply with their responsibilities, noting that the de-escalation agreement in Idleb stipulates that the Turkish side is responsible for monitoring opposition activities, while Moscow and Tehran undertake the activities of regime forces and allies.
The Russian Defense Ministry previously announced that the drones that attacked Hmeimeem were launched from positions controlled by regime forces, while Russian media said Wednesday that the new hypothesis at this time is an indication of the widening breach with Ankara.
In the same context, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said that Ankara had summoned the American charge d’affaires in the issue of Syrian developments, with the Turkish Foreign Minister saying that his country intended to host a meeting of states “with common visions” around Syria after the Sochi conference.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.