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Iran, Russia, Turkey hold talks on Syria situation

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Moscow, Tehran and Ankara denounce attempts to divide Syria into parts as unacceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday following a meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu. “We agreed that attempts to split Syria on ethnic and religious grounds were totally unacceptable,” Lavrov said after the trio meeting on Syria. The three countries have been attempting to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict at talks that started last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, in competition with the US and UN-backed Geneva initiative. “We have stated that we will counter attempts to undermine our joint efforts and pointed out that the Astana process is stable,” he said. Lavrov said the recent US-led missile strikes on Syria “seriously aggravated the situation” and that statements about supporting the territorial integrity of Syria “are only words that, apparently, cover plans for reformatting the Middle East and plans for dividing Syria into parts.”

According to him, the attack “not only significantly raised tensions on the international stage but also considerably damaged the prospects for a political settlement.” Lavrov said Russia, Turkey and Iran need to help Syria’s government clear its country of terrorists. In a joint statement, the three foreign ministers said they have agreed to increase joint efforts to help achieve “a lasting political settlement in Syria”. The ministers “agreed to increase joint efforts aimed at facilitating the achievement of a lasting political settlement in Syria envisaged by” a UN Security Council resolution and “through full use of multi-level mechanisms of the Astana format.” They also “reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of” the Syrian Arab Republic”.

Iraq will not allow its soil to be used for attack on Syria

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The Iraqi government spokesperson, Saad Hadithi, said on Tuesday that Baghdad will not allow the country’s soil to be used for attacks on Syria. Hadithi said in a statement that the Syrian conflict allowed ISIS extremists to emerge and flourish into Iraq in 2014. Baghdad will not launch any attack on Syria and let any operation from Iraqi soil against its neighbor Syria, Hadithi added. Baghdad attempts to maintain unity and stability for Syria in an effort to completely defeat ISIS and create the circumstances that will prevent its return, he said

Iran: Qasemi condemned Israel’s invasion against Syria

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Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi strongly condemned Israel’s fighter invasion against Syria and called it a clear violation of international law and in the direction of strengthening terrorism. Qasemi said undoubtedly this action of the Israel, when field developments are beneficial to the Syrian legal government, is to strengthen terrorist groups with the aim to deviate public opinion from Gaza catastrophe and its tens of martyrs and thousands of injures. The spokesman underlined again Iran’s full support for territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Syria and called on all countries and international community to avoid being indifferent towards such clear invasion against a UN member. 

Rouhani, “Syria has no military solution and should be resolved politically”

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No country has the right to decide on the future of Syria that belongs to the Syrian people, Rouhani told reporters in Ankara on Wednesday after a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey. Maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty and unity and independence should be appreciated by everyone as a major demand of the Syrian people, he added. “In view of the Islamic Republic of Iran, … Syria (crisis) has no military solution and should be resolved politically. We should all help to bring the war to an end.”

Rouhani went on to say that it would be a great celebration day for the region when the war in Syria ends, terrorists leave the region, Syrian refugees return home and the Syrian people can determine their fate and future in a free election. The Iranian president further hailed the efforts made by Iran, Russia and Turkey on the path of fighting terrorism and establishing ceasefires in Syria, including through the Astana peace talks and the trilateral summits in Sochi and Ankara.

Tripartite summit of Iran, Russia and Turkey

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After a tripartite summit in Ankara, the Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents stressed their joint resolve to oppose separatism as well as the use of terrorism as an excuse for changing Syria. The statement followed a two-hour closed-door meeting among Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. They emphasized their strong and continued commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and non-sectarian character. In the statement, they “expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.” The leaders “expressed their conviction that there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that the conflict could be ended only through a negotiated political process.” 

They believe in an agreement to form a Constitutional Committee, supported by the UN Secretary-General and the international community. They reiterated “the necessity to assist the Syrians in restoring the unity of their country and in achieving a political solution of the ongoing conflict through an inclusive, free, fair and transparent Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process based on the free will of the Syrian people and leading to a constitution enjoying the support of the Syrian people, and free and fair elections with the participation of all eligible Syrians under appropriate UN supervision”. The presidents also reaffirmed their determination to continue their active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of a lasting cease-fire. The three countries will continue cooperation in the fight against terrorism and their efforts to ensure calm on the ground and protect civilians in the de-escalation areas. They stressed that the creation of de-escalation areas was temporary as provided for under a May 2017 memorandum. The statement also took note of developments on Syria since their previous meeting last November in Sochi. 

Rouhani and Putin visit Turkey in bid to end Syria war

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The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey reiterated their commitment to work toward achieving a sustainable cease-fire between warring sides in Syria and bringing peace and stability to the war-torn country. Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “reaffirmed their determination to continue their active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of lasting cease-fire between the conflicting parties and advancement of the political process envisaged by UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” said a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting of the three leaders in Ankara on Wednesday. In the statement, Rouhani, Putin and Erdogan also emphasized their “strong and continued commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and non-sectarian character of Syria.”

They also stressed that there could be “no military solution” to the Syrian conflict and that the conflict could be settled only through a “negotiated political process.” The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey, whose countries act as guarantors of the Syria cease-fire, also reaffirmed their determination to continue their cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate Daesh, Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, and entities associated with Al-Qaeda or Daesh as identified by the UN Security Council and underscored the success of their collective efforts in the fight against international terrorism. Addressing the summit, Rouhani said the Syrian region of Afrin, captured by Turkish forces, should be handed over to Syria’s Army. “The developments in Afrin can only be useful if they do not violate Syria’s territorial integrity, and control of these areas should be handed over to the Syrian Army,” Rouhani said.

Abadi says Iraq sets plan to launch cross-border operation against Syria terrorists

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said his country’s military forces have plans to launch a cross-border operation to fight against terrorists on the territory of Syria. “The situation in Syria remains a real challenge and we are focused on finding a solution,” Abadi said, speaking to reporters during his weekly press conference on Sunday night. “We have gone from fighting terrorism in Iraq to fighting terrorism in Syria,” Abadi said as quoted by Rudaw news agency. He explained that the matter in question was discussed on Saturday with Iraqi military commanders for countering terrorism beyond Iraq’s borders. “Our project has developed from fighting terror in Iraq to fighting terror in the region,” the premier said, stressing that the aim is not to violate other countries sovereignties. “We do not want to exceed our limits, and we will not transgress those of other countries,” the prime minister emphasized, saying his country is playing a pivotal role in countering terrorism.

Erdogan, anti-Americanism on rise

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that anti-American sentiments is growing because of the U.S.’ support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. He added that when he showed to Tillerson all this on a screen, he complained that ‘anti-Americanism is on the rise in Turkey because Turkey broadcast this sort of information on TVs every day. Erdoğan’s statements came as a joint Turkish-American committee continued talks in Washington D.C. in a bid to resolve outstanding problems between the two allies. The U.S. State Department spokesperson on March 8 said talks between Turkish and American officials had begun in the U.S. capital and many issues would be discussed. Heather Nauert told reporters that the meeting is an introductory one where the two nations can work out some of these issues. When asked if Washington was willing to pressure Ankara to stop the Afrin offensive, Nauert said it would not come as a surprise if this issue appeared in the talks. On the Turkish side, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Önal has been presiding over the committee on Syria, Deputy Undersecretary Cihad Erginay on the FETÖ and Fazlı Corman, the director general for South Asia at the Foreign Ministry, on Iraq. According to Turkish officials, the primary agenda of the Syrian committee is Turkey’s demand to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, which lies to the west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. The meeting will be also about FETÖ, Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 missile system from Russia, migration and visa issues.

All-women convoy starts its journey in Istanbul

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On Tuesday, an all-woman international convoy started its three-day journey in Istanbul to raise awareness of the suffering of women and young girls imprisoned by the Syrian regime. At the convoy, women from over 50 countries have participated to the International Conscience Convoy, calling itself the “voice of oppressed women in Syria”. During the press conference, human rights lawyer and convoy organizer Gulden Sonmez said the journey is meant to save imprisoned Syrian women and spark hope for a better future. Currently, over 6,700 women, over 400 of them young girls, are still living in these brutal prisons. Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and women’s rights campaigner, said that they are setting off on this journey to be the conscience of those who are in Syrian prisons.

Dia Hassoun, spokesperson for the convoy, said that it aims to reach the world to break the silence and show the suffering of Syrian women. The convoy hope that the international community will take effective measures to protect women in Syria and all around the world. Zaleha Kamarudin, the rector of Malaysia’s International Islamic University, said that she is taking part in the convoy as it is her responsibility to protect women and children from being victims of war. The convoy will arrive in Hatay on March 8, and during the journey, the convoy will make stops in the Turkish cities of Izmit, Sakarya, Ankara, and Adana before reaching the southern Hatay province at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Government raids on the Ghuta, 75 civilians killed

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According to medical sources in Arbin and Hammuriye, two of the areas struck overnight, a total of 75 bodies have been reported on the streets and in hospitals in the cities of Ghouta after the Syrian government air strike on Ghouta, Damascus. Babies, children and women were among the victims, the sources said.

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