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Iran, Russia, Turkey Leaders Meet      09/16 06:07

   The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey are to meet in the Turkish capital of 
Ankara on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, with the aim of halting 
fighting in the country's northwestern province of Idlib and finding a lasting 
political solution to Syria's civil war, now in its ninth year. 

   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey are to meet in 
the Turkish capital of Ankara on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, with 
the aim of halting fighting in the country's northwestern province of Idlib and 
finding a lasting political solution to Syria's civil war, now in its ninth 
year. 

   Topping the agenda of the meeting is the volatile situation in Idlib --- the 
last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria --- where a cease-fire went into 
effect at the end of August, following a wide four-month offensive by 
government forces.

   The cease-fire has been holding despite some violations that left six people 
dead last week. A major conflict in Idlib has raised the possibility of a mass 
refugee flow to Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

   Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, some already displaced from other parts of 
the war-torn country, have moved toward Turkey's border to flee Syrian 
airstrikes, backed by Russia.  

   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey could "open 
its gates" and allow Syrians already living in his country to flood Western 
countries if Turkey is left to shoulder the refugee burden alone.

   Monday's talks are the fifth trilateral meeting among countries that stand 
on opposing sides of the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's 
Hassan Rouhani are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad while Turkey 
backs Syrian rebels seeking to oust him.

   A major offensive was averted last September when Erdogan and Putin agreed 
in the Russian resort town of Sochi to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib and 
open two major highways. Those plans, as well as a Turkish pledge to tame armed 
groups in Idlib, dominated by the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, have 
largely failed. 

   Despite divergent interests in Syria, Erdogan and Putin have been building 
closer ties, having met seven times in 2019 alone. Russia has delivered two 
batteries of the S-400 surface to air missile systems to Turkey and the two 
countries are cooperating on energy deals. 

   The three leaders were also expected to take up Turkish and American plans 
for a so-called "safe zone" in northeastern Syria, to meet Turkish demands for 
U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara considers terrorists, alleging 
they have ties to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey, pushed farther from its 
border. 

   Ankara is also lobbying for a plan to resettle displaced Syrians in 
Turkey-controlled zones across northern Syria. 


(KR)

 
 
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