Turkey, Iran hold talks after U.S. Syria announcement
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, December 20, held talks with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, with Syria likely to dominate the agenda after the surprise US decision to withdraw troops from that country.
The two leaders sat down for the meeting in Ankara, which was arranged before US President Donald Trump's announcement.
Trump stunned allies and American officials on Wednesday, December 19, with an order to pull ground forces from the war-ravaged nation.
The US presence has been seen by analysts as key to pushing against Iranian influence.
Ankara has repeatedly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ouster and supported Syrian opposition fighters. Tehran and Moscow are Damascus's strongest allies and have helped to turn the war in Assad's favour.
Despite their differences, Turkey has been working closely with Iran and Russia to find a political solution to the war through the Astana process launched last year.
As part of the peace talks which began in the Kazakh capital, the 3 countries agreed 4 "de-escalation" zones in Syria. All of those except the northwestern province of Idlib have been retaken by Damascus.
The Turkish, Iranian and Russian foreign ministers met on Tuesday in Geneva for talks with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. Afterwards they voiced hope that a committee tasked with writing a new Syrian constitution would begin early next year.
Turkey and Iran, regional rivals for centuries, have in recent times focused on developing a pragmatic relationship and boosting trade.
Erdogan threatened last week to launch a new operation east of the Euphrates in northern Syria against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
This US-backed Kurdish militia is viewed by Ankara as a "terrorist offshoot" of Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.
There are around 2,000 US forces in Syria, most of them on a train-and-advise mission helping the YPG under the banner of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance fighting against the Islamic State extremist group.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier on Thursday said that Ankara was "working intensely" on the subject of the east of the Euphrates and the flashpoint city of Manbij held by the YPG.
"When the time and place comes, they (the YPG) will be buried in the pits they dig," Akar vowed during his visit to Doha, according to state news agency Anadolu. – Rappler.com