Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Erdogan: We Prepared Ground for Astana Talks with Moscow, Tehran | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rebel fighters ride on a pick-up truck in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of al-Rai, Syria January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Ankara- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Ankara has prepared the ground for the Astana talks during the trilateral meeting of Turkish, Russian and Iranian foreign and defense ministers in Moscow last December, adding that the ceasefire reached in Syria was an extremely important chance despite its fragility and the continuous violations.

Speaking to ambassadors attending the 9th Ambassadors Conference in Ankara on Monday, Erdogan did not offer additional details whether more deals had been struck between the concerned parties.

However, a diplomatic source asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara has kept its contacts with Russia, Iran and the Syrian opposition factions.

The sources said opposition factions have not yet decided on the delegation they plan to send to Astana due to their dissatisfaction with the continuous violations committed by the regime and their linked militias in the Wadi Barada valley.

The sources also said Turkey was making several contacts with Russia in an attempt to compel Moscow to exert pressure on the Syrian regime to end these violations.

“Turkey has offered Russia a file including all the violations committed by the regime and its linked militias, while Moscow has also contacted Tehran for the same purpose,” the sources said.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan were working to organize a series of new Syrian peace talks between the Bashar Assad regime and the opposition. Putin suggested the talks to take place in Astana, the Kazakh capital.

The sources said that talks held between Russian experts and their Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Monday, expected to continue on Tuesday to focus on the preparations for the Astana talks and the revision of the ceasefire agreement text, in addition to the violations committed by the regime and its allies and the means to solve them.

Both the Russian and Turkish experts would also meet with representatives from opposition factions that agreed to join the ceasefire and would discuss with them their concerns regarding the regime’s violations and the means to remove the obstacles hampering those factions from participating in the talks, the sources said.

According to the sources, Ankara and Moscow would work on convincing the Syrian opposition factions that respected the truce to form, by Jan. 16, the delegation that would represent them in the Astana talks.

Separately, Turkey continued on Monday shelling ISIS positions in the city of al-Bab, north of Syria. The Turkish Army announced it targeted 23 ISIS positions, killing 48 terrorists.

On Monday, Erdogan criticized the U.S.-led coalition forces, which he said failed to provide support to Turkey’s fight against ISIS.