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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Russia, Turkey, Iran seek unity on Syria

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ISTANBUL: Three of the main foreign combatants in war-torn Syria agreed on Wednesday to speed up efforts to bring calm, protect civilians and improve humanitarian aid deliveries, but failed to layout a path forward amid lingering differences about the conflict.


Iran and Russia have each lent significant support to the Syrian government amid years of fighting, while Turkey has intervened, sometimes putting its interests at odds with the other two.


The three countries are driving the so-called Astana process, which aims to impose “de-escalation zones” in Syria. Excluded from the summit was the US, the other major power on the ground, which has backed Kurdish militants in the country, putting it at odds with both Syria — and its benefactors — and Turkey, which has long opposed a Kurdish presence in the region.


Hinting at tensions between the Astana countries as they met in Ankara, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the withdrawal of “all troops” from Afrin, referring to a Kurdish enclave in Syria which Turkey seized last month.


In the comments carried by Iranian state media, Rouhani said the Syrian army should be given control over the enclave, as well as other contested parts of Turkey.


Turkey has in the past said it has no time table for withdrawing from Afrin, only that it will one day return the enclave to its “real owners.” SEE ALSO P7


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