Turkey to host Syria summit with Russia, Iran on April 4

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, will host a tripartite Syria summit on April 4 to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, not in picture. (AP)
Updated 16 March 2018

Turkey to host Syria summit with Russia, Iran on April 4

ANKARA: The presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet for a three-way summit on Syria in Istanbul on April 4, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
The meeting will be hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will be the second such tripartite summit following one in November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The summit will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as the three leaders seek to salvage their efforts to end the conflict.
As part of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana sponsored by Ankara, Moscow and Tehran, the three countries’ foreign ministers will meet on Friday and will discuss preparations for next month’s summit, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The three countries have worked together despite being on different sides. While Iran and Russia have provided military support to the regime of Syria's Bashar Assad, Turkey has repeatedly called for his ousting and supported Syrian rebels.
Ankara on Jan. 20 launched an air and ground offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in its enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.
The operation dubbed Olive Branch follows Turkey’s 2016-2017 offensive named Euphrates Shield in Syria against the YPG and the Daesh extremist group.
As part of the Astana process, Turkey, Iran and Russia have set out to create four so-called de-escalation zones in Idlib, the greater Damascus area, the southern region of Daraa and the city of Homs.
Intense bombardment has continued in Eastern Ghouta, which was designated in May 2017 as a “de-escalation zone.”
On Feb. 18, the regime backed by Russia launched a campaign against the rebel enclave near Damascus which has killed 1,249 civilians, including 252 children.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 8 min 24 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.