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Russia, Turkey Bicker over Syria's De-escalation Zones

Russia, Turkey Bicker over Syria's De-escalation Zones

Thursday, 11 January, 2018 - 10:00
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (File Photo: Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reiterated that the Syrian dialogue conference in Sochi would contribute to the success of the Geneva talks.

Following ameeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif, Lavrov said that there is a conviction that Syrian National Dialogue Congress (SNDC) can really create conditions for the success of the Geneva talks if there is an understanding that the part of the radical opposition that keeps making preconditions, including a regime change, is influenced by those that control it.

The minister indicated that he recently spoke about this in Moscow with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura during a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

“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,” added Lavrov.

He stressed that the Geneva talks wouldn’t have been this important for all the participants in the process hadn’t it been for the initiatives, starting with the Astana process launched a year ago.

For his part, the Iranian Foreign Minister stated that the Sochi meeting will help achieve success at the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.

"We are committed to cooperating with you and our Turkish friends and moving in the same direction so that the Congress that will be held in Sochi finds a way for the political settlement of the crisis in Syria," Zarif added.

Russian and Turkish guarantors bickered on Wednesday on Idlib’s de-escalation zone, north of Syria, as Ankara recently criticized Moscow for not performing its duties in the province.

In an indirect response, Russian Defense Ministry said that a recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria came from Idlib.

The attack was launched from an area near Idlib controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces, according to the ministry.

According to a report published Wednesday by “Red Star” newspaper of the Russian Defense Ministry, the drones were launched from the de-escalation area in Idlib which is controlled by the “moderate opposition”.

The ministry, added the newspaper, sent two formal complaints about the incident to the head of the Turkish General Staff, General Hulusi Akar, and the national intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan.

Ankara must deliver on "its promises to enforce the ceasefire on the armed forces under its control and to establish observation posts in the Idlib de-escalation zone to prevent similar drone attacks on any targets,” the letters said.

The Russian Ministry did not determine which opposition faction is responsible for the attack, and a ministry source informed Russian Kommersant publication that the ministry will not issue any harsh statements against the US before evidence on its involvement.

The source stated that authorities are gathering information to determine the technical specifications of the drone used in the attack.

The recent developments occurred three weeks before the Syrian dialogue conference in Sochi which will be held at the end of January. The Kremlin confirmed that it is contacting experts to determine the list of participants.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday "intense contacts" were in progress between Russia, Iran and Turkey in order to draw up the list of participants. He added that such contacts can be "quite quickly" arranged if necessary.

When asked about a possible tripartite Russian-Iranian-Turkish meeting before Sochi, Peskov stated that such meeting is not on the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia stated that Russia hopes the UN would participate in Sochi.

"We think that it is in the interests of the UN to participate. Because Sochi is not a stand-alone event but a contribution to the UN process," he added.

Speaking after a closed session of UNSC consultations on the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, Nebenzia called on the US-lead coalition to rebuild the city.

He reiterated: “I think that those who fought ISIS there and ruined the city should also take responsibility of restoring it, but so far the process is going very slowly. That was the point of the meeting,”

Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov appealed to Brussels to provide Syria with humanitarian aid.

"The EU wants to see a political transition first, but this is the time when people suffer, so we believe that the time has come to go beyond the scope of humanitarian aid to something more substantial," Chizhov said.

The official added: “We will coordinate efforts with other possible players. The Iranians may say that they contribute a certain amount to restore Syria, but what will Britain say, what will the EU say?"

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