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Turkish-Iranian Tension over Russia’s Stance before Astana Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) of Turkey and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, leave after a news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016. Reuters

Ankara – Turkey’s delegation to Astana participated on Sunday in meetings held few hours before the launch of negotiations between the Syrian regime delegation and that of the Syrian opposition under the auspices of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Diplomatic sources said that Turkey’s delegation held bilateral talks with Russian and Iranian parties and other tripartite meetings including Syrian opposition delegation.

These meetings, according to the sources, aimed at reaching a midpoint in order to agree on a ceasefire in Syria, which constitutes the basis for talks in Astana, and conclude the final document that is due to be issued on Tuesday.

Sources confirmed that Moscow and Ankara’s stances are close whereas the Iranian stance seemed to be different as it seemed to be aiming to get Russia closer to form a front with Iran and the Syrian regime to put pressure on the opposition.

Russia welcomes possible U.S. participation in Astana talks on Syria, but Iran’s position is complicating the issue, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told BBC in an interview on Saturday.

“We will welcome U.S. participation in Astana talks. The situation is very complicated. You know that there is also Iran like a very important player in the Syrian issue. Iranians are not welcoming this. So it is a very complicated issue for a very careful play,” Peskov said.

On the other hand, preparatory talks were held in Astana on Sunday prior to the talks on Monday as representatives for the Turkish, Russian and Iranian delegations participated in them.

Of the participants were President Vladimir Putin’s point-man on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi-Ansari and Russian Head of the Department of Middle East and North Africa Sergei Vershinin.

Notably, Astana talks will also include U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura.