Turkey, Iran call for cease-fire in Syria before Geneva II

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) welcomes Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at their meeting in Tehran on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

November 27, 2013, Wednesday/ 15:33:00

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran have called for a cease-fire in Syria before an international peace conference known as Geneva II takes place in January.

“There are two more months until Jan. 22. It is not a period to wait idly. The humanitarian situation is getting worse. We are of the same opinion with Iran on ensuring a cease-fire in Syria for the Geneva II process to be successful,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Wednesday during a joint press briefing with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran where he has been for the last two days for official talks.

An international peace conference for Syria will begin on Jan. 22, the first direct talks between President Bashar al-Assad's government and opposition forces seeking to overthrow him, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Monday. The goal of the conference is to agree on a mutually acceptable transitional administration as well as on the other elements of an outline peace plan drafted by Western powers and Russia in Geneva in June last year.

“All our efforts are directed towards ending the conflict and a cease-fire if possible, even before the Geneva II conference takes place," said Zarif, as reported by Reuters.

Davutoğlu maintained that Turkey will continue to work and call for an end to clashes in Syria until the Geneva II conference.

The two countries disagree on Syria, with Iran backing Assad's regime and Turkey supporting opposition forces fighting against the embattled Syrian president.

Highlighting the difficult weather conditions for Syrians in winter, the Turkish foreign minister said it is impossible for neighboring countries to remain idle in the face of the humanitarian situation in the country. “In the face of the worsening humanitarian situation and winter conditions, it impossible to wait two more months,” he stressed.

The Turkish foreign minister said he had discussed with top Iranian officials ways to deliver aid to more than 5 million people, both in Syria and those seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Davutoğlu also had talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday before the press briefing with Zarif. The foreign minister was due to meet with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani later in the day.

According to media reports, Davutoğlu also announced during Wednesday's press conference that Rouhani would visit Turkey in January.

Zarif: Iran, Turkey agree military solution not viable for Syria

Zarif said Turkey and Iran agree there is no military solution to put an end to the crisis in Syria and that all actors active in the Syria issue should encourage a political solution.

The two countries agreed to collaborate on a solution to the Syria crisis, Zarif said.

When Zarif was asked if Iran would reduce its support of the Syrian regime, the Iranian foreign minister said: “[One of the main] principles of Iran's policy is staying out of other countries' domestic affairs and supporting regional resistance against the Zionist regime. Iran's policy has not changed and will not change in the future.”

Iranian-Turkish dialogue most important in region

Late on Tuesday Davutoğlu said he regarded the dialogue between Ankara and Tehran as the most important dialogue in the Middle East region, particularly at a time when sectarian tension is being instigated.

Davutoğlu's remarks came during a conference at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran, which he spoke at.

Earlier on Tuesday, Davutoğlu attended the 21st meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which started on Tuesday in Tehran, which hosted the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan and representatives from other members of the ECO.

During the conference, Davutoğlu said the problems of the region can no longer be discussed in a peaceful way, adding that this situation exacerbates the tension in the Middle East. The foreign minister said engaging more political dialogue with regional countries could be a remedy to the problem.

“Iranian-Turkish dialogue, especially now when sectarian violence is being instigated, is the most important dialogue in the region,” he said, as reported by the Anadolu news agency.

Bringing up his visit to Shiite-populated cities in Iraq in October, Davutoğlu said it was time to be united and stop what he called the “transition period” from turning into ethnic or sectarian conflict.

“We need political dialogue and economic interdependence. If countries are economically interdependent on one other, they will not use force against each other,” he noted.

The foreign minister added that impasses in regional security problems will prolong existing conflicts, thus causing “international power centers” to manage all regional problems.

“It is time for regional cooperation. Therefore, the dialogue between the two regional powers, Iran and Turkey, will contribute to the region's stability and also block the negative effects of regional conflicts,” Davutoğlu told.

“In my opinion, once Turkey and Iran join forces, it will not only benefit them but [their collaboration] will also form the backbone of regional stability,” he maintained.

Agreement on Iran's nuclear program

Davutoğlu reiterated that Turkey welcomes an interim agreement reached between Iran and Western powers on curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions on Iran. He congratulated Zarif for his efforts in reaching an agreement with world powers.

The foreign minister said once the interim deal starts to introduce peace and stability, it will also benefit countries which are already affected or likely to be affected by the tension between Iran and Western powers.

Bringing up the 2010 Tehran Declaration, a uranium swap deal signed between Turkey, Brazil and Iran in Tehran as a confidence-building measure in the settlement of the nuclear dispute, Davutoğlu said the declaration was a “lost opportunity.”

The interim accord reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on Sunday halts Iran's nuclear program for the first time in a decade. Iran's uranium enrichment will be halted for six months until a final settlement is reached, according to the deal. It will therefore be difficult for Iran to build a nuclear bomb in that period.

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