'Hope they come to their senses': Tehran summit ends with call for Idlib terrorists to lay down arms

Turkey seems to have prevailed during tripartite talks with Russia and Iran, convincing the other parties that a major offensive in Syria's Idlib governorate would not be the wisest move at the moment.

The situation in Syria was discussed in Tehran on Friday by Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani as part of the so-called "Astana process." The leaders of Iran and Turkey disagreed on what action should be taken in Syria's Idlib, the last major stronghold of armed groups in the country, which is dominated by hardcore jihadists.

 
FILE PHOTO: The US flag on a military vehicle in Manbej countryside, Syria © Aboud Hamam

All three nations agree that the threat of radical Islamists in Syria must be eliminated, but differ as to how this should be achieved. Rouhani advocated a strong-arm approach, claiming it would secure an end to major hostilities in the seven-year-old conflict.

"We have to realize that only the destruction of the terrorists, a military victory against them, can ensure stability and peace in the future in Syria and not only in that country," he said.

Erdogan reiterated his government's concern over the potential death toll of an offensive in highly populated Idlib, where an estimated 3.5 million people are currently living. Turkey, which borders the Syrian governorate, is also objecting to a major operation there because it would likely cause a major exodus of refugees across the border, with extremists potentially sneaking in with refugees.

"[The refugees] would have no other way to go but Turkey. But we have already accepted 3.5 million refugees. Turkey cannot take in more," said President Erdogan.

"Our goal is to resolve the situation in Idlib according to the spirit of the agreements we made in Astana," Erdogan added, warning that "mistakes in Idlib may derail the political process in Syria."

The Iranian president eventually agreed that civilians living in Idlib should not become victims of an anti-terrorist effort.

Call to end violence

At Erdogan's suggestion, the final communique of the summit was amended to include a call for all armed groups in Idlib to lay down arms and seek a political transition in the country. Putin and Rouhani agreed, which may indicate that a major offensive in Idlib is not likely to be launched in the immediate future, unless some major development happens on the ground. The Russian president remarked that the call is addressed to all armed groups in the Syrian province, including UN-designated terrorist groups.

"Let us hope that the members of the terrorist organizations would have enough sense to stop resistance and lay down weapons," he said.

"Our agreements on Syria were always based on a premise that we are seeking to ensure peace between all belligerents, but kept the terrorist organizations bracketed out," he remarked.

@Khaaasteh While final statement of was about to be passed, Erdogan suddenly questioned the text and called for inclusion of "ceasefire" in the statement. The presidents are now negotiating and bargaining live on TV !

As he was arguing against an offensive in Idlib, Erdogan acknowledged that armed groups controlling the governorate pose a credible threat, including to Russian military personnel stationed at Khmeimim Airbase. He suggested that regular drone attacks on the Russian military site should be stopped by pushing those launching them out of range.

During the summit, Rouhani and Erdogan were united in their criticism of the presence of US troops in Syria. The Iranian president repeatedly stressed that foreign influence was a major factor in escalating the war in Syria, and called on the US to withdraw the troops that it has illegally deployed in Syria. Erdogan reiterated Ankara's objection to the support that the US gives Kurdish militias in northern Syria, which are perceived as a major security threat by the Turkish government.

Return of refugees key to resolving violence

Putin's remarks on the situation in Syria tilted towards humanitarian aspects and the necessity to reconstruct the country. He said that many people who had fled violence in Syria to other nations may now return to their homes.

 
© Umit Bektas

"Conditions have been made in Syria to take in up to a million of refugees. The government has provided security guarantees to all returnees, assuring that they would not be subjected to discrimination, including in terms of property rights," he said.

The Russian president argued that, if as many Syrians as possible get a chance to return to peaceful lives, it would give an impetus to a political resolution of the conflict between the Syrian government and the so-called "moderate opposition." Erdogan disagreed with Putin, saying that the return of refugees to Syria would only be possible after a new constitution is agreed and adopted, and an election held to form a new government.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are seeking to end violence in Syria and facilitate negotiations between its government and opposition groups, which agree to cease hostilities and seek a political transition for their country. The desired outcome is a peaceful Syria under a government that properly represents all its minorities and is in control of all its territory. The final resolution of the conflict, which was greatly complicated by foreign interference and the rise of jihadist groups, is expected to be negotiated in Geneva under the aegis of the UN.

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Planned chemical weapon provocation in Idlib aimed to prevent removal of terrorists – Lavrov

The planned chemical weapon provocation in the Syrian province of Idlib is aimed at maintaining the presence of terrorists in the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The Russian FM, who met his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Wednesday, compared the terrorist presence in the province with an “abscess” that should be swiftly removed.

“Idlib is now the last remaining hotbed of the terrorists, who try to speculate on the area’s status of de-escalation zone; try using the population as a human shield and try repressing the armed groups that are ready for talks with the government,” he said.

The Minister also noted that the overall goal in Washington with regard to war-ravaged Syria, was not really helping the country, but to push for regime change.

 

FILE PHOTO. © Rodi Said

“It’s not the first time the US – no matter the administration – has prioritized the task of changing dissident regimes above the common goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. It happened in Iraq and Libya. Now they’re trying to do the same in Syria. To phrase it more correctly – they tried to do it in Syria, but failed,” Lavrov said.

The chemical attack issue and “the threats that are put forward against the Syrian government, are used with the sole purpose of preventing the expulsion of the terrorists from the de-escalation zone in Idlib,” Lavrov said.

In this case, the Trump administration is simply following the policies of Barack Obama, under whom “the Americans tried to use all means possible to shelter Jabhat al-Nusra, with hope of using it in the fight against, what they call, the regime,” he added.

Earlier, Moscow warned that a provocation, involving chemical weapons, was being prepared in Idlib by the US, with the aim of blaming the Syrian authorities and justifying further air strikes.

Chemical weapons provocation aimed at keeping terrorsts in Syria - Lavrov

On Tuesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that sources on the ground informed them that the chemicals to be used in the fake attack have been already delivered to terrorists in the area with the assistance of the infamous White Helmets group.

Washington cautioned that it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian authorities with retaliatory strikes, which would be a lot larger in scale than those conducted against the country by the US, the UK and France in April.

READ MORE: White Helmets accompany large delivery of poisonous chemicals to militants in Syria – MoD

Those strikes were carried out based on an unconfirmed reports of a chemical attack, which also came from the White Helmets. The Western-backed group has been caught red-handed working with militants and producing fake evidence to smear the Syrian government and its allies.

 
 
 
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Syria: U.S. increases support for terrorists

The latest chemical attack against civilians has once again served as a new pretext for U.S. to justify a greater intervention against the Arab country, without resigning itself to the continued defeats of the terrorist groups it has armed, trained and organized, and whose greatest percent is made up by contractors, as many elegantly call these mercenaries, and Islamic fundamentalist individuals who give their lives ignoring the manipulation they have been subjected to by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The entire anti-Syrian plot, and eventually anti-Russian, is seasoned with a funding that increases, despite the defeat and withdrawal of many of the aggressors, and having received extensive supplying of US, British and Israeli weapons, including chemical ones, which have been generously paid by the satraps of the Persian Gulf, and Arab League members, which are Arab by their name, rather than by their spirit, as has shown their hypocritical and empty support to the Palestinian people so far.

The United States does not resign itself to the defeat of its protégées at the hands of the Syrian army and the solidarity intervention of the Russian air force, which only participates in actions in rural areas, not in the cities, geared at avoiding what usually happens to the Empire’s army, “collateral damage”.

In this context, the CIA, of a long record of support to terrorists and mercenaries, used once again, as we have stated, the pretext of the chemical attacks, carried out by its hosts, with the support of the US mainstream press, after which the missiles launched by US troops targeted a Syrian airbase in the province of Homs, amid the rhetoric of the Trump Administration telling that preps are underway to intensify their military operations in Syria.

Like in previous episodes of chemical attack charges, the public is being overwhelmed with unverified recordings of agonizing victims, as official reports and corporate press, before any probe and groundless; hold the government of Bashar al Assad and its Iranian and Russian allies responsible of a war crime.

In a matter of minutes, The New York Times and The Washington Post posted articles pinning the blame on the Syrian and Russian governments for the alleged attack. For its part, British newspaper The Guardian declared in an editorial that, “the renewed use of chemical weapons by Syria against its own people over the weekend is shameless and barbaric”.

All this farce takes place shortly after a very painful event for the Empire: because after having used the region of eastern Ghouta for years to cut off supplies to Damascus and to attack unfriendly embassies, such as Russia’s, the Syrian army forced the opposition groups, mainly armed by Israel, to withdraw to other remote spots, but they previously evacuated the hundreds of thousands of locals held hostage by the aggressors.

It’s worth adding that Trump is already devising plans to attack the Syrian army with missiles there, as part of the chemical pretext, unlike what his predecessor, Barack Obama, did in a similar event, also plotted by the CIA, since he did not want to bombard Ghouta in 2013, which earned him furious criticisms until the day he left the White House.

The investigations that have been conducted since then prove that the attack was actually perpetrated by the “rebels” at the service of the U.S., together with the Turkish government that openly supported the aggression against Damascus at that time.

In April 2017, an alleged gas attack was used to justify a significant bombardment with cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield. Similarly, it turned out to be an airstrike targeting facilities used by the “opponents” to collect poisonous gases.

But with Trump, I stress, the hawks that control the cabinet have no problems, and with the head of the National Security  Agency, John Bolton, they should be considering to carry out new actions at the expense of the blood of the Syrian people.

For the moment, as it is actually happening in Iraq, the Empire does not have its hands free for other terrorist actions, such as the immolation of fundamentalist individuals deceived by their own CIA-hired chiefs, not aimed at primarily occupying cities or territories, but at sowing chaos, destruction and uncertainty among citizens.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

 

Cuba condemns terrorist attacks in Caracas

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba issued a statement regarding recent events in the Venezuelan capital.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Caracas against the Supreme Court of Justice and the Ministry of Popular Power for Internal Affairs, Justice and Peace.

It is unjustifiable that certain governments and political figures, instead of expressing resolute and direct opposition to these terrorist and coup-mongering acts, present them as a supposed police rebellion, and manipulate them to incite the rupture of the civic-military union, and to attack the dignified decision of President Nicolás Manduro Moros to prevent chaos and call for the legitimate defense of constitutional order.

It is not surprising that the Organization of American States (OAS) and its secretary general have become, through their silence, accomplices of what happened and what may happen.

Cuba resolutely rejects the use of terrorism and foreign interference in Venezuela, while reiterating its firmest solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and its leaders. Nothing and no one will prevent the brave people of Bolívar and Chávez from fighting with determination to defend their ideas and achievements, and restore the peace that others have broken.

Havana, June 28, 2017

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US-Russia cooperation could benefit Syria & wider world – Assad

Cooperation between Moscow and the new administration in Washington could be positive not just for Syria but also the wider world, Syrian President Bashar Assad said, adding that the EU has merely supported terrorists since the start of the country’s civil war.

When asked by Belgian media about the Trump administration and the possibility of working with it, Assad said that statements by the Republican both during his election campaign and after are “promising regarding the priority of fighting terrorists, and mainly ISIS [IS, Islamic State],” SANA news agency reported

READ MORE: ‘Focus on ISIS, not starting WWIII’: Trump blasts Senators McCain & Graham 

“That’s what we’ve been asking for during the last six years,” he added. “So, I think this is promising, we have to wait, it’s still early to expect anything practical. It could be about the cooperation between the US and Russia, that we think is going to be positive for the rest of the world, including Syria.”

‘EU supporting terrorists in Syria from very beginning’

Assad blasted the European Union for supporting extremists in Syria “since the very beginning,” saying that it can’t “destroy and build at the same time” in the war-torn country.

“The EU is supporting the terrorists in Syria from the very beginning under different titles: humanitarians, moderate, and so on.”

Communiqué of President Assad statement to Belgian media

He provided the examples of the terrorist groups Al-Nusra Front (now known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and Islamic State, which have always been extremist but still were supported by the EU “from the very beginning.”

“If you ask any Syrian the same question, he will tell you, ‘No, we don’t accept [EU involvement], those countries supported the people who destroyed our country, we don’t want them to be here.’ That’s what I think.”

According to Assad, many in Syria believe that “the Europeans don’t exist politically, they only follow the master, which is the Americans.”

“So, the question should be about the Americans, and the Europeans will follow and will implement what the Americans want. They don’t exist as independent states…,” he said.

‘UN biased because of American, French & British influence’

The Syrian leader also criticized United Nations institutions, which he said are far from being unbiased “because of the American influence and the French and British, mainly.”

“Most of those institutions …don’t work to bring the stability to the world or to look for the truth; they are only politicized to implement the agenda of those countries.”

@RT_com Safe zones in Syria are waste of time as they ‘won’t be safe enough’, UN refugee chief says https://on.rt.com/82co

Assad stated that most of the positions the UN takes are “biased,” “regarding every organization, regarding every sector, regarding most of the resolutions against Syria.”

READ MORE: Russia, China veto ‘counterproductive’ UNSC resolution on Aleppo ceasefire

“That’s why it was for the first time maybe for Russia and China to take so many vetoes in few years, because they know this reality,” he added.

 

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‘Dealing with enemies to save Syria’: Astana process paves way for Geneva talks

The talks on the Syrian peace process concluded in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, with the three guarantor countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran – issuing a joint statement establishing trilateral support for the Syrian ceasefire and paving the way for the Geneva talks due February 8.

Russia, Iran and Turkey have announced they will establish a trilateral mechanism to support the ceasefire in Syria. In a joint statement issued at the end of talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, they said the Syrian opposition had agreed to take part in peace talks on the issue set for Geneva, Switzerland.

“The delegations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey …support launching the talks between the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the armed opposition in Astana on January 23-24, 2017,” said a joint statement on Tuesday.

Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “express their conviction that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be solved though a political process.

Kazakhstan: Russia, Turkey and Iran create mechanism to observe Syria ceasefire

The sides also agreed to jointly fight terrorists from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which alongside Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) was not included in the negotiations. The trio suggested separating terrorists from Syrian armed opposition groups, and welcomed the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the Syrian crisis, which was adopted in December 2015.

Russia, Iran and Turkey said that they support the willingness of the armed opposition groups to take part in the next round of talks, which are scheduled for February 8 in Geneva.

‘Extremely painful’ to be in same room as Syrian armed rebels who committed terrorist acts – Damascus rep

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari told reporters it was “extremely painful” for the Damascus delegation to sit in the same room as Syrian armed groups “who committed terrorist acts.” He added that it was not the first time they had met, and that the government had to take the step for the sake of the Syrian people.

Al-Jaafari: meeting succeed in consolidating cessation of hostilities for a specific period of time

Jaafari said that he viewed the role of Turkey in the Syrian ceasefire as negative, but had to agree to cooperate to facilitate the peace process.
In politics sometimes we have to deal with enemies to save your country, and this is what we do,” he said.

Jaafari called the negotiations “a success” and expressed support for the joint statement earlier issued by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara.

"Finally we have a consensual paper [the joint statement] agreed upon by everybody," he said.

Answering a reporter’s question, he said that the Syrian government would continue its operation in the Wadi Barada area in the Damascus Countryside Province, as long as the people in the capital remain deprived of water.

Water from the pumping station at Ain al-Fijah in the Wadi Barada area was cut by the Damascus Water Authority in late December, after it said militants had contaminated the source, the Barada River, with diesel fuel. As a result, more than 5 million people have been without water for over two weeks.

Syrian armed opposition supports ceasefire, demands Assad step down 

Mohammed Alloush, leader of the Jaysh al-Islam militants, who headed the delegation of the Syrian armed opposition at the Astana talks, said the rebels support a political solution based on UN auspices, while demanding the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Alloush added, however, that the Syrian opposition would not engage in any talks with Iran and would not accept any statement by Tehran on Syria’s future. He said that he had given a proposal to Russia on the ceasefire, and expects an answer within a week.

 ‘Probably first time armed groups sat in the same room with govt since Syria conflict began’ – Mistura on Astana process

Staffan de Mistura, the UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria, told reporters that the UN commends Russia, Iran and Turkey for deciding to establish a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire in Syria.

He underlined the uniqueness of the talks, saying that it was “probably the first time” since the start of the civil war that Syrian armed opposition groups had sat in the same room as the government.

Syrian ppl are desperate for an end to the ongoing brutal & bloody conflict - de Mistura on

 

“It has required political courage from them to sit in the same room and listen to their respective demands,” he said.

The envoy said he hopes that the political process will continue in Geneva. The only way for peace to come to Syria is through a political solution brought about through intra-Syrian negotiations under the aegis of the UN, he concluded.

“We cannot allow another ceasefire to dissolve because of a lack of a political process. Now is the time for the international community in all its dimensions to come together and support one integrated political negotiating process, as provided for in [UN Security Council Resolution] SCR 2254.”

 

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UNESCO Condems Syria's Cultural Destruction by Terrorists

Paris, Jan 20 (Prensa Latina) The Unesco Director-General, Irina Bokova, condemned today the destruction caused by the Islamic State of several patrimonial places in the Syrian city of Palmira, which she described as a war crime.

'This destruction is a new war crime and a huge loss for the Syrian people and humanity', said Bokova, after receiving reports and images taken by the UN Operational Satellite Applications Program, confirming the damage.

'This new strike against the cultural heritage, that we knew hours after receiving information about mass executions made in the theater, shows that the cultural cleaning carried out by violent terrorists seeks to destroy human life and historical monuments in order to deprive Syrian people of its past and its future,' regreated Bokova.

A UNESCO statement reads that the images allowed to confirm the damage caused to Tetrapillum and the Roman Theater in Palmira, a place declared Patrimony of Humanity in 1980.

Bokova stressed that 'the Tetrapillum was a architectural symbol of the spirit of encounter and openness of Palmira, and that is also one of the reasons for its destruction. Its location and shape were unique in the ancient architecture and specific symbol of the identity of the city, source of pride and dignity for all Syrians'.

In the statement, UNESCO reiterated the call 'to the entire international comunity to stand together against this cultural cleansing.'

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Turkey, Russia agree on Syria cease-fire plan

Turkey and Russia agreed on a plan for a cease-fire in Syria, state media reported Wednesday.

Turkey's Anadolu Agency said the proposal for a nationwide halt to fighting, which could come into effect at midnight, covers areas where Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition are fighting.

The plan excludes terrorist organizations, Anadolu said, without elaborating on which militant groups in Syria fall into this category. If the proposed cease-fire holds, peace talks would then take place in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the cease-fire deal was imminent. Russia has not commented on the report.

Syria's government announced last week that it had retaken full control of the devastated city of Aleppo.

The peace talks in Astana would not include the United States and would be separate to United Nations-brokered negotiations to end the conflict in Syria that has been raging since 2011. The UN estimates that the conflict has killed a quarter of a million people and displaced more than 10 million.

 

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