Iran foreign minister in surprise Erdogan talks: Turkish presidency

File photo shows Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan shaking hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Reuters)
Updated 29 August 2018
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Iran foreign minister in surprise Erdogan talks: Turkish presidency

  • Zarif went into the talks at the headquarters of Erdogan’s ruling party
  • Expectations grow of an offensive in Idlib, northwest Syria, bordering Turkey by Tehran’s ally President Bashar Assad

ANKARA: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was on Wednesday holding previously unannounced talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the Turkish presidency said.
Zarif went into the talks at the headquarters of Erdogan’s ruling party, as expectations grow of an offensive in the Idlib province of northwest Syria bordering Turkey by Tehran’s ally President Bashar Assad.
Turkey has been keeping a wary eye on the possibility of the offensive, as it seeks to bring peace to Syria along with Iran and Assad’s other main ally Russia.
Ankara has throughout the seven year civil war in Syria supported rebels seeking to oust Assad but has put differences aside to form a three way alliance with Tehran and Moscow.
Erdogan and his counterparts Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are due to meet for a third summit on Syria in Iran on September 7, Turkish reports have said.
But analysts say that Idlib, which is largely controlled by rebel groups, could test the alliance with Turkey, as Ankara warns a military solution could lead to catastrophe and a new influx of refugees across its borders.
Turkey has 12 observation posts staffed by its military inside Idlib aimed at monitoring a de-escalation zone and media reports have said it has sent concrete blocks over the border to reinforce them in case of an offensive.
But analysts also say that Turkey is keen to preserve the three-way alliance and may be prepared to support a more limited offensive against the most extreme factions in Idlib.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday called on the West not to stand in the way of an “anti-terror operation” in Syria’s Idlib.
Lavrov also said that there is “full political understanding” between Russia and Turkey and said it was necessary to “disassociate the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists.”


Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

Updated 18 July 2019
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Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

  • Authorities estimate the mosquer dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries
  • Rare to find house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers

RAHAT, Israel: Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the remains of one of the world’s oldest rural mosques, built around the time Islam arrived in the holy land, they said on Thursday.
The Israel Antiquities Authority estimates that the mosque, uncovered ahead of new construction in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert, dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries.
There are large mosques known to be from that period in Jerusalem and in Makkah but it is rare to find a house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers, the antiquities authority said.
Excavated at the site were the remains of an open-air mosque — a rectangular building, about the size of a single-car garage, with a prayer niche facing south toward Makkah.
“This is one of the earliest mosques known from the beginning of the arrival of Islam in Israel, after the Arab conquest of 636 C.E.,” said Gideon Avni of the antiquities authority.
“The discovery of the village and the mosque in its vicinity are a significant contribution to the study of the history of the country during this turbulent period.”