Four-Party Meeting of Senior Diplomats on Syria Postponed at Russia’s Request

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (DPA)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (DPA)
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Four-Party Meeting of Senior Diplomats on Syria Postponed at Russia’s Request

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (DPA)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (DPA)

A four-party meeting of senior diplomats on Syria has been postponed at Russia’s request, but no new date has yet been agreed, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.

“The Russian side has informed us that it has not yet completed its preparations and requested a postponement [of the meeting]. It was proposed that the meeting be held in a different timeframe and we agreed,” said Cavusoglu, adding that he does not rule out that the talks were actually postponed at Syria’s request.

A meeting of Russian, Iranian, Syrian, and Turkish deputy foreign ministers had been planned to discuss preparations for a ministerial meeting on normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus.
The meeting, which had been scheduled for March 15-16, was postponed for “technical reasons.”

The head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, earlier this month visited Moscow, where he announced that he could not meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “before the complete withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Syria.”

Assad’s statement about willingness to negotiate with Erdogan only after the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria is inappropriate, Orhan Miroglu, a member of the central decision-making committee of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Sputnik.

The likelihood of holding a meeting between Erdogan and Assad before May's presidential election in Türkiye is extremely small, the politician noted.

“In diplomatic practice, it is forbidden to raise the ceiling of demands upon the start of negotiations, if both sides intend to reach a compromise and mutual understanding and find a solution to differences,” said Miroglu.

“In this case, if Assad sets preconditions for Türkiye, then Ankara has the right to demand that Damascus stop supporting the YPG group [People's Defense Units, military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, designated a terrorist organization by Türkiye ],” he added.



Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
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Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)

Lebanese political and diplomatic efforts to calm tensions between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon have not eased fears of a potential all-out war. This has led Lebanese ministries to prepare for the worst.

Firas Abyad, the Minister of Public Health in the caretaker government, stated that his ministry has activated a war emergency plan and increased readiness among medical teams.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has also developed strategies to mitigate the impact and respond if a conflict erupts.

“We have a four-month supply of medicines. We’ve strengthened our energy sources like fuel, electricity, and the internet. We’ve also trained our staff for wartime conditions and expect hundreds of thousands to be displaced internally,” said Abyad a few days ago.

A source from the Ministry of Health explained that proactive measures taken in anticipation of potential conflict aim to avoid unexpected situations like those experienced in 2006.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat under the condition of anonymity, the source mentioned that Abyad has been actively involved in refining contingency plans.

“The minister has been actively involved in refining this preparedness plan for months, regularly updating it. We’re also coordinating with international bodies for assistance, which has been positively received,” revealed the source.

The source emphasized that while emergency plans aren’t based on specific war warnings, it’s crucial for the ministry, along with other government bodies, to remain prepared for any unforeseen events.

The source affirmed that the ministry is readying government hospitals, particularly emergency and operating rooms, and coordinating closely with private hospitals.

The ministry is also identifying suitable spots for field hospitals to handle emergencies, providing quick aid to the injured. Additionally, it’s preparing ambulance teams to be available 24/7.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Kheir, the head of Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, assured Asharq Al-Awsat that HRC is fully prepared to handle any developments.

He emphasized their focus on providing food, bedding, and supplies to displaced people, particularly those currently fleeing from the south.

Al-Kheir mentioned that the commission operates within its modest annual budget and receives additional aid, including medicines for the Ministry of Health and government hospitals.

For security reasons, he declined to reveal the locations of new shelters or aid storage centers to prevent them from being targeted.