Turkey, Iran meet before a Syria summit with Russia

By Middle East Affairs

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who support opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, held talks Wednesday in Ankara before their upcoming summit with Russia.

The three countries will discuss strategies to reduce the violence among them and their coalitions. Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey backs anti-regime insurgents.

The Turkish-led coalition has been working since January to push the Kurdish YPG out of northwestern Syria, a group which Ankara views as a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. Now, Ankara is claiming it will move into the northeast, where rebels near capital Damascus are succumbing to pro-regime forces.

Reuters said Damascus considers Turkey’s move into the region as an illegal invasion.

On Iranian state television Tuesday night, Rouhani seemingly referenced Turkey and the United States when he said “Iran believes that the presence of foreign forces in Syria without authorization of the Syrian government is illegal and must be halted.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was considering pulling forces from Syria. He said at a news conference that the United States would “not rest until Isis is gone” but that victory was near. “It’s time,” he said.

Reuters said if the United States removes itself from Syria, then Russian, Iranian and Turkish influences in the country’s war could increase even more.

In his statement Tuesday night, Rouhani said the three countries will discuss reconstruction in Syria, a new constitution, and peace plans for Syria.

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