Russia, Turkey Call for U.S. Participation in Syria Peace Process
Dec. 31, 2016 (EIRNS)—With the cease-fire still generally holding, both Moscow and Ankara have welcomed the idea of U.S. participation in the Syria peace process meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan—after January 20. "Yes, we do expect that the Trump Administration after it comes into the White House on January 20 will be an important participant," Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said, yesterday. Turkey also looks forward to U.S. participation. "We welcome the (possible) U.S. participation in the meeting in Astana," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told Al Arabiya TV, yesterday. The Astana meeting is now set for Jan. 23. A senior Turkish official told Hürriyet that Turkish and Russian officials will come together either on Jan. 8 or 9 to discuss the developments in the field and get prepared for the Astana process.
As for other possible participants, Churkin described Iran as a "willing participant," and Egypt as a country "which can join the process of preparation of the meeting in Astana." He also named Saudi Arabia (about which the Iranians disagree rather strongly), Kuwait, and Qatar as "very important players" that could also participate.
According to TASS, Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Cavusoglu spoke by phone, yesterday, and they stressed the importance of all sides adhering to the truce agreement. "They pointed to the importance of compliance with the cessation of hostilities by all opposition groups and their constructive approaches in light of the upcoming meeting in Astana," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
A senior Turkish official told Hurriyet, this morning, that Turkey and Russia will establish joint monitoring centers in the Eskisehir Main Air Base in Turkey and Hmeimim Air Base in Syria to closely follow the implementation of the cease-fire. "We, as Ankara and Moscow, will follow the cease-fire process together. We have already been working very closely in the recent month. We will monitor from the Eskisehir base and they will from their Hmeimim base. But our ground forces will also keep track of developments and inform both our monitoring centers," the official said. The day before, Cavusoglu confirmed, in an interview with Hurriyet the establishment of the joint monitoring centers and that a hotline would be established between them to coordinate the truce process and investigate any potential violation.