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Turkey-Russia Agree on U.S. Participation in Astana Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference after the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Ankara-Intense meetings were held in Turkey on Friday between Turkish officials and representatives of the Syrian armed and political opposition to put the final touches on the line-up of the opposition delegation due to participate in talks on a solution to the Syrian crisis in Astana on January 23, according to sources close to these meetings.

This came as Turkish officials held phone calls with different parties, especially Moscow and Tehran, to ensure nothing would hinder the Astana talks after Russia agreed to the participation of the United States, according to what informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moscow and Ankara last month brokered a ceasefire for the war-torn country, but without the involvement of Washington, a negotiator in previous agreements.

“The United States should be definitely invited, and that is what we agreed with Russia,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists in Geneva on Thursday after an international conference on Cyprus.

The truce went into effect on December 30 and has brought calm to much of Syria although fighting continues in some areas.

“We need to maintain the ceasefire,” Cavusoglu said in Geneva. “This is essential for the Astana talks.”

The Turkish Foreign Minister said invitations for the talks were likely to be sent out next week, adding that Washington should be present.

“Nobody can ignore the role of the United States, and this is a principled position of Turkey,” he said.

“The ones who did or who could contribute should be there, but not just to be in the family photo. You know what I mean.”

He said the aim of the talks “is to reach the political solution, which is the best solution.”

In line with calls made by Ankara to guarantee that the talks in Astana won’t be hindered, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday.

Rouhani said it is essential for Iran and Turkey to expand ties in line with efforts to serve the long term interests of the Middle East region.

“I hope we would be able to eradicate terrorism through cooperation between the Iranian and Turkish governments in order to help the regional people feel more peace,” he said in the phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart.

Rouhani added: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is satisfied with closer cooperation among Ankara, Tehran and Moscow to establish peace in the region.”

He said efforts should be expedited to guard the truce which took effect in Syria on December 30.

Pointing to the upcoming talks in Astana on the Syrian crisis, Rouhani said: “It is our objective to fight all the terrorist groups in the region.”

“I hope we would witness a relative stability in Syria and the region through cooperation between Iran and Turkey,” the president noted.

For his part, Erdogan said that the terrorist groups in the region should be countered through joint cooperation.

Iran and Turkey should boost cooperation in fighting terrorism and alleviating tension in the region, Erdogan said. Turkey is determined to expand relations with Iran in various areas, he added.

Elsewhere, the Turkish president extended condolences over the death of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.