Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Emerging negotation between Turkey, Russia and Iran on Syria

"We must find a way to stop this bloodiest war of the modern era," Mr Kalin said. "It’s of the utmost importance to be constructive and focus on solving the problem, and that is our approach."

    Turkey, Russia, Iran agreed in Moscow last week to follow a joint approach to Syria that includes seeking a ceasefire and holding peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana. They offered to act as guarantors of any peace deal to end a conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people and sent millions fleeing to neighbouring countries and to Europe.
    While Turkey has backed rebels groups seeking to remove Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, Russia and Iran are allies of Mr Al Assad.

      Mr Kalin said the date of the talks and the list of participants had not been decided.
      Russia said on Friday that the first meeting would be held in mid-January and that the Syrian government, "moderate" opposition, the Kurds and forces on the ground including rebels that are not part of extremist group would be invited.
      Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran this month retook the city of Aleppo, whose eastern districts had been held by rebels since 2012. It marked one of Russia’s biggest victories since it joined the Syrian war last year in support of Mr Al Assad and against rebel groups backed by the US, Turkey, Gulf and European states.

        Mr Putin has thanked Turkey as well as Iran for their role in the capture of Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, Turkey restricted the flow of rebel weapons across its border.
        Turkey also helped to broker and guarantee a deal for tens of thousands of rebels and civilians to leave eastern Aleppo in safety.
        The United Nations, whose efforts to stage Syria peace talks collapsed earlier this year because of continued fighting, has announced a new round will be held in February. The talks in Kazakhstan would not replace the UN-led efforts in Geneva, according to Russia and Turkey.

          Mr Kalin said diplomatic efforts for ceasefire across Syria were continuing, with talks between the Turkish and Russian presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers. "Our aim here is to make sure the ceasefire is reached and systematically enforced in all of Syria. Our ultimate aim is to reach a political transition process."
          However, Russia has opposed efforts to force Mr Al Assad from power. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Turkey and Iran had agreed that "the number one priority shouldn’t be regime change but the task of suppressing the terrorist threat" in Syria.

            * Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg News

            bth: one wonders if Assad will find accommodation with the Syrian Kurds in order to remain in power.

            Over 2,000 Saudi jihadists abroad: ministry - AFP

            Riyadh (AFP) - More than 2,000 Saudis are fighting abroad with jihadist groups, with over 70 percent of them in Syria, the kingdom's interior ministry was reported as saying Monday.
            "The number of Saudis proven to be in conflict areas is 2,093," interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki told daily newspaper Al-Hayat.
            He said that 1,540 of them were in Syria, where jihadists have flocked since the Islamic State group seized control of vast areas in mid-2014.
            Another 147 were in Yemen, which is the base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of the global terror network.
            Another 31 were believed to be in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Turki said.
            Only five were believed to be in neighbouring Iraq, where IS also seized significant territory in 2014.

            Note: Read separately that 70% of IS in Syria is foreign (non-Syrian) and 30% of IS in Iraq is foreign. Are IS fighters in  Syria viewed as foreign occupiers by the locals?