Iran Top Diplomat Javad Zarif In Surprise Syria Talks With Erdogan

TEHRAN — With expectation grow­ing of an offensive by Iran ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s Idlib province bordering Turkey, Zarif held one hour of talks with Erdo­gan in Ankara.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mo­hammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday held previously unannounced talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, the Turkish presidency said, with the situation in Syria likely to have dominated the agenda.

With expectation growing of an offensive by Tehran ally Presi­dent Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s Idlib province bordering Turkey, Zarif held one hour of talks with Erdogan at his ruling party head­quarters in Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mev­lut Cavusoglu, who attended the meeting, said “bilateral ties… (and) Syria” were on the agenda, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Zarif, who heads now to Paki­stan, posted on Twitter after the meeting that the talks had been “fruitful”. He said they focused “on bilateral relations and regional co­operation in the face of malign US behaviour”.

Iran has strongly supported Turkey as it was hit by sanctions from Tehran’s arch enemy the Unit­ed States which have caused the Turkish lira to nosedive in value.

Turkey has been keeping a wary eye on the possibility of the Idlib offensive, as it seeks to bring peace to Syria along with Iran and Assad’s other main ally Russia.

Ankara has throughout the seven-year civil war in Syria supported rebels seeking to oust Assad but has put differences aside to form a three-way alliance with Tehran and Moscow.

Erdogan and his counterparts Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin are due to meet in Iran for a third summit on Syria on 7 September, Turkish re­ports have said.

But analysts say that Idlib, which is largely controlled by reb­el groups, could test the alliance with Turkey, as Ankara warns a military solution could lead to ca­tastrophe and a new influx of refu­gees across its borders.

Turkey has 12 military obser­vation posts inside Idlib aimed at monitoring a de-escalation zone and media reports have said it has sent concrete blocks over the border to reinforce them in case of an assault.

But analysts also say Turkey is keen to preserve the three-way alliance and may be prepared to support a more limited offensive against the most extreme fac­tions in Idlib.

Russian Foreign Minister Ser­gei Lavrov on Wednesday called on the West not to stand in the way of

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