Russia, Turkey to coordinate on Syria after US pullout

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters wave Turkish and opposition flags as they gather in the north of Aleppo province before heading to the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij, on December 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 29 December 2018

Russia, Turkey to coordinate on Syria after US pullout

  • Russian and Turkish ministers agreed to maintain cooperation in northern Syria as US forces prepare to withdraw
  • Turkey will continue coordinating their steps “on the ground” under new conditions

MOSCOW: Russia and Turkey on Saturday agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria after the shock announcement of a US military withdrawal, Moscow’s top diplomat said.
President Donald Trump’s move has already hastened a shift in alliances with Syrian troops deployed Friday in support of Kurdish forces around a strategic northern city. The Kurds, under threat from Ankara, had been supported by US forces.
“Of course we paid special attention to new circumstances which appeared in connection with the announced US military pullout,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Syrian deployment pleased ally Russia but upset Turkey ahead of Saturday’s talks in Moscow.
“An understanding was reached of how military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue to coordinate their steps on the ground under new conditions with a view to finally rooting out terrorist threats in Syria,” Lavrov said.
Cavusoglu confirmed the two countries would coordinate Syria operations, adding they also discussed plans to help refugees to return home.
“We will continue active work (and) coordination with our Russian colleagues and colleagues from Iran to speed up the arrival of a political settlement in the Syrian Republic,” he said in remarks translated into Russian.
“We have the common desire to cleanse Syrian territory of any terrorist organization, Cavusoglu added.
Lavrov said he was “optimistic” following the talks which included Russian and Turkish defense ministers Sergei Shoigu and Hulusi Akar.
Trump last week said he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that Washington had achieved its objective as Daesh had been “knocked” out.
The extremist movement has lost nearly all its territory, although thousands of its militants are thought to remain in war-battered Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the US pullout has led to another key step in President Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control over the country.
The Syrian army announced its return to Manbij, a strategic city close to the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been deployed since 2016 and where US-led coalition forces are also stationed.
A US withdrawal will leave them exposed to an assault by Turkey, which has thousands of proxy fighters in northern Syria and wants to crush Kurdish forces it considers terrorists.
The Syrian army’s arrival creates a regime buffer arching across northern Syria that fully separates the Turkish army and its proxies from the Kurds.
Ankara reacted to the deployment by warning “all sides to stay away from provocative actions.”
On Friday, Russia said it would host a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran on the Syrian conflict early next year following their last such meeting in September.


Iran condemns US show of support for ‘rioters’

Updated 18 November 2019

Iran condemns US show of support for ‘rioters’

  • Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials a liter
  • ‘The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy’

TEHRAN: Iran condemned the United States’ support for “rioters” in a statement issued late Sunday, after two days of violent protests in the Islamic republic against a petrol price hike.
The foreign ministry said that it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “expression of support... for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks.”
Protests erupted in Iran on Friday, hours after it was announced the price of petrol would rise to 15,000 rials a liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.
In a tweet on Saturday, Pompeo said in response to the demonstrations that “the United States is with you.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed his comments in Sunday night’s statement.
“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” Mousavi was quoted as saying.
“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of (Pompeo) have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people.”
The statement blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrawal in May last year from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“It’s curious that the sympathizing is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mousavi said.

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