Zarif, Lavrov underlines peaceful settlement of Idlib battle 

March 4, 2020 - 18:54

TEHRAN - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday over developments in the Syrian northwestern province of Idlib, urging an immediate de-escalation of tensions in the region. 

Zarif and Lavrov laid emphasis on implementation of the Astana ceasefire agreement preventing more tensions in the war-hit region.

On January 23, 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran launched the Astana talks in Kazakhstan to build on the existing ceasefire agreements. 

The Astana meeting raised hopes in the sixth year of the war, at least for the start of a process moving towards a political solution, after the UN-brokered Geneva talks in 2012 couldn’t stop the violence in Syria. 

Astana then brought the strongest opposition groups on the field together and made them sit with Damascus for the first time since the beginning of the war. Brokers of the process were Turkey, Russia, and Iran, but Jordan and the U.S. also attended the talks later. 

Later, Tehran, Ankara, and Moscow started another peace process in Sochi in January 2018, that neither the U.S. nor the Syrian government were invited to. This time, the brokering parties of Sochi discussed the post-Daesh political order in Syria, as well as reducing violence in the country.

Now, Turkey has indirectly joined the war against Syria which is trying to drive out militants and the terrorists from Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

In this indirect war, at least 33 Turkish soldiers lost their lives on Friday in Idlib province in Syria’s airstrikes. It prompted a reaction from the UN, warning on the rapidly-rising risk of escalation.

In the following days, at least 74 soldiers of the Syrian army and voluntary forces were killed by the Turkish airstrikes, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

Also last Thursday, Russian and Syrian media outlets reported that Turkish military forces had been firing shoulder-fired missiles towards Syrian and Russian military aircraft providing air cover for Syria's anti-terrorist operations.

Iran seeking trilateral summit on Idlib

In a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday afternoon, President Hassan Rouhani announced that Tehran was ready to host a summit between Iran, Turkey, and Russia as the battle in Idlib was raging.

“Trilateral cooperation at different levels is of special importance, and as has been announced earlier Iran is quite ready to host the next round of the trilateral summit,” Rouhani said, according to the presidential media office.

Rouhani noted that the lives of the innocent people in Idlib province should be protected and at the same time the terrorists in the region must be purged.

Rouhani went on to say that the Astana process engineered by Iran, Russia, and Turkey for resolving the Syrian conflict must not be undermined.

The Iranian president went on to say that that the intensification of tension in the region will not benefit anyone, insisting on Tehran’s long-held policy that Syrian conflict must be resolved through dialogue.

Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali has also said that Rouhani has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold the next Astana-format summit in Tehran.

“Several days ago, presidents Rouhani and Putin talked over the phone. During the phone conversation, President Rouhani invited President Putin… suggesting that the next summit in the Astana format in the near future should be held in Iran,” Jalali said on Tuesday in a meeting with Chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov, according to RT.

Terrorists attempted to carry out chemical attack amid Syrian army gains

Also, Sputnik quoted on Wednesday the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria as saying that the White Helmets had finished filming a staged provocation implicating the Syrian army for the use of chemical agents.

The center stated that a group of up to 15 terrorists had attempted to carry out a chemical attack in Idlib province.

"On 2 March, a group of up to 15 terrorists attempted to detonate explosive ammunition together with containers full of a poisonous chemical agent. The terrorists aimed to impede the advance of Syrian government forces in the western part of Saraqib city and then accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons", the statement read.

The terrorists accidentally unsealed one of the containers, which resulted in a leak. Terrorists received "significant chemical poisoning" and failed to carry out the attack, the center said.

The Russian military said they would soon publish the evidence on the failed chemical attack.

Back in 2018, the European Union and the U.S. blamed Damascus for an alleged chemical attack in eastern city of Douma. The Syrian government rejected the accusation and joined Moscow in saying that the attack was staged by local militants and the White Helmets non-governmental organization.

Following the accusations, the U.S., the United Kingdom and France targeted what they called Syria’s chemical weapons facilities with over 100 missiles.


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