UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM ERDOGAN, IRANIAN AND RUSSIAN LEADERS
By Diyar Guldogan, Sena Guler, Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak, and Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) - A trilateral summit in Ankara between Turkey, Russia, and Iran will add new dimensions to the Astana peace process for Syria, the Turkish president said on Monday.
"I believe that the Ankara summit will bring a new dimension to Astana process," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters ahead of a trilateral meeting on Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.
Erdogan said the Astana platform on Syria is a "unique attempt" to find effective solutions for Syria.
"We have to take more responsibility to ensure peace in Syria," he added.
“We agree completely on preserving Syria’s political unity, territorial integrity, protecting tranquility in the field, and finding a lasting political solution,” Erdogan said.
He also said the three countries would carry the fight against terror to another level by “eliminating terrorists in Syria east of the Euphrates River.”
During the summit, Erdogan said the presidents would discuss Idlib, Syria, developments east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, and migration.
He added that Turkey stood with the Syrian people during the "most difficult and most painful" times.
Touching on an attack Sunday on a hospital in Aleppo, Erdogan said this attack once again showed terrorism’s “brutal face.”
At least 12 civilians were killed and dozens injured in the car bomb attack in the town of Cobanbey in Syria's Aleppo province near the Turkish border.
- Turkey, Russia, Iran support lasting solution in Syria
Rouhani, for his part, said that Iran believes that the Syrian crisis can only be solved through political means with the participation of the Syrian people.
“The U.S. presence in Syria is not legitimate, the U.S. forces must leave the region as soon as possible,” he added.
Turkey, Russia, and Iran have laid a foundation for a lasting solution in Syria, said Russian President Putin.
"The trilateral summit on Syria in the Astana format is the most effective mechanism to contribute to the resolution process in Syria," Putin said.
He also stressed that through the joint efforts of the three countries -- the guarantors of the Astana peace process -- stability was reached in Syrian lands, and the level of violence was reduced.
But he also remarked that the "situation in the Idlib, Syria de-escalation zone is troubling."
Putin also said the security problems in northeastern Syria should be solved on the basis of protecting the country's territorial integrity.
Turkey is hosting the fifth trilateral summit Monday with the participation of the Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders in the Astana format, focusing on the turmoil in Syria.
Before the summit, Erdogan met Putin and Rouhani in the Cankaya Palace in the capital Ankara.
-Conflict displaces civilians
The summit aims to assess the latest developments in war-weary Syria -- the northwestern city of Idlib in particular -- ending the climate of conflict, ensuring the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees, and achieving a lasting truce and political solution to the Syrian turmoil.
The Astana peace process to end the Syrian conflict was launched in January 2017 as the initiative of Turkey, Russia, and Iran. A total of 13 rounds were conducted in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
The zone is currently inhabited by about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced in recent years by regime forces from cities and towns throughout the war-weary country.
Erdogan has warned that further aggression by the regime and allies might trigger an influx of millions of refugees to Turkey, which currently hosts over 3.6 million displaced Syrians, making Turkey world’s top refugee-hosting country.