On day one of the 18th round of Astana talks on Syria that kicked off in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan on Wednesday, Iran’s representative stressed uniformity of views on Syria between Moscow and Tehran.
Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior aide to Iran’s foreign minister, told Russia’s Sputnik News that the Iranian and Russian delegations discussed all the important issues concerning Syria in a “very good” meeting.
“Our view is close to the Russian side, and there are common views that will be reflected in the final statement,” the senior diplomat noted.
The new round of peace talks on Syria in the Astana Format, which commenced on Wednesday, is attended by high-level delegations from Iran, Russian, and Turkey – the three guarantor countries.
A United Nations delegation led by Robert Dunn, political affairs officer of the special envoy for Syria, a Jordanian delegation, representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Committee of the Red Cross is also attending as observers.
Khaji is heading the Iranian delegation in the talks that seek to find a lasting solution to issues related to the war-ravaged Arab country.
The participants are expected to discuss issues such as the conditions for the safe return of Syrian refugees, the humanitarian and socio-economic situation in Syria, the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, confidence-building measures, the release of hostages, and the search for missing persons.
Iran and Russia, as the allies of the Syrian government, as well as Turkey, which sides with the opposition, set up the Astana peace process in January 2017 intending to put an end to the Syrian conflict through the involvement of the Syrian government and the opposition.
The 17th round of the talks was held in December last year.
Turkey’s possible attack on Syria ‘unwise’: Russia
Russian president’s special envoy for Syria, Alexandr Lavrentyev, speaking on the sidelines of the meeting on Wednesday said Moscow considers Ankara’s possible military operation in Syria "unwise" as it could escalate and destabilize the situation.
“We believe that it (a Turkish military operation) would be an unwise move that may destabilize the situation, escalate tensions and cause a new round of hostilities in the country,” Lavrentyev said, cited by Russian news agency TASS.
He said Russia has urged Turkey to refrain from military actions in Syria and to resolve the issue peacefully, adding that Russia will continue to help Syria.
In a separate statement, the Kremlin said that a possible Turkish military operation in Syria would not bring stability.
“We do not believe that this special operation will contribute to the stability and security of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently declared a plan to launch a new military operation into northern Syria to create a “safe zone” along the border.
Iran and Russia have rejected Turkey’s plan, saying they oppose the use of military action against regional countries.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any military action and the use of force on the territory of other countries with the aim of resolving disputes between them,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said late last month.
Turkey has for long violated Syria’s territorial integrity by deploying its military forces there with the professed aim of fighting militants from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas. Ankara’s incursions in Syria have drawn strong condemnations from the Damascus government.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization linked to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Turkish airstrike kills 4, including 12-year-old boy in northern Iraq
The fresh round of Astana talks coincided with a Turkish airstrike in northern Iraq, which killed at least four people, including a 12-year-old boy.
Several others were also wounded in the attack that took place around noon in Sinuni area outside Sinjar, an Iraqi security official was cited in news reports.
The Turkish military has occupied areas in northern Iraq, where it regularly conducts attacks against what it claims are PKK positions without the Arab country’s consent.
Baghdad has repeatedly condemned Ankara’s ongoing military operations in northern Iraq, warning that Turkey intends to seize control of the strategic northwestern city of Mosul and annex it to its own territory.
Syria calls on UN to act against Turkey’s aggressive policies
Meanwhile, the Syrian delegation to the Astana talks, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan, met with the UN delegation headed by Robert Dann, the chief of political affairs in the office of the UN special envoy for Syria and head of the UN delegation to the Astana process, on the sideline of the talks.
During the meeting, Sousan underlined the need for the UN to assume its responsibilities to curb Turkey's aggressive policies.
It is unacceptable to remain silent about these policies that pose a serious threat to security and stability in the region, she said.
Dann, for his part, highlighted the UN stance, which was voiced by spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on the necessity of respecting Syria’s sovereignty and avoiding any acts that would spark an escalation in the region.
The Astana meeting is also attended by UN special envoy on Syria Geir Pedersen.