ANTALYA /Turkey/, November 19. /TASS/. The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey will gather in the Turkish resort city of Antalya on Sunday to discuss opportunities for settling the Syrian crisis.
The ministerial meeting will be held in the run-up to the November 22 Russian-Iranian-Turkish summit in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier said chiefs of General Staffs of the three states may also meet for consultations.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the situation in Syria has improved over the past six months thanks to the efforts of Turkey, Russia and Iran.
"Since Aleppo we have been cooperating with Russia. And we have made a lot of progress. Russia kept its promises. From time to time, we regret that there were some violations [of the ceasefire] by the regime and or the supporters [of the opposition]," he said. "Eventually, we also included Iran to the system and to the process. We put responsibility on Iran as guarantor, as well, guarantor of the regime. And here is the result: the situation on the ground is much better than it was six months ago."
However, Ankara has repeatedly pointed to threats allegedly coming from Kurdish groups active in Syria’s Afrin district.
Erdogan said that Ankara "has discussed with the Russian side possible actions in Afrin." On November 2, he said his country was expected to cooperate with Moscow not only in Syria’s Idlib province, but in Afrin as well.
"Afrin is a very important region for Turkey, because it is a constant source of threat for the national security of the republic," Erdogan said.
Special attention during the talks will be paid to the situation in Idlib, a de-escalation zone where Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations - Russia, Iran and Turkey - have been deploying their observer posts.
Cavusoglu said he planned to discuss with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s vetoing the US-initiated draft UN Security Council resolution on extending the mandate of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria and the Japan-initiated draft on provisional extension of the mission’s mandate.
He did not rule out that the two countries’ presidents, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, can discuss that topic at their meeting in Russia’s Sochi on November 22. "It should be fully investigated to find out who used it [chemical weapons] and who is responsible for it," he added.
The road to Geneva talks
Russia, Iran and Turkey are conducting active negotiations in the Astana format to improve the situation on the ground, and eventually pave the way for a political settlement.
"As the past 18-24 months show us, the Geneva process may totally stall if left to itself. Before it [the Geneva process] in January after a ten-month pause, Russia, Turkey and Iran have launched the Astana process," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. "It became a sort of trigger that prompted our friends from the United Nations to take more active measures in order to ensure a direct and inclusive dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition."
The new round of Syrian reconciliation talks in Geneva will begin on November 28, and, according to Lavrov, its success depends to a great extend on the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress. The date of the congress, expected to be held in Sochi, remains to be set.
"I’m convinced that the Congress is intended to help the Geneva negotiation process to gain the path and rhythm which we currently don’t see," Russia’s top diplomat said.
On October 31, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that representatives of 33 organizations, including opposition groups based in Damascus, Cairo, Riyadh, Istanbul, Paris, Geneva and Madrid, had been invited to take part in the event. Two key Syrian opposition groups based outside the country, namely, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the High Negotiations Committee (the Riyadh group), which takes part in the UN-brokered consultations in Geneva, refused to take part in the meeting in Sochi.