Russia says Turkey agrees priority in Syria not regime change

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iran's counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu (R) looks on after a news conference in Moscow on December 20, 2016. Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to guarantee Syria peace talks and backed expanding a ceasefire in the war-torn country, Russian foreign minister said after talks with counterparts. / AFP PHOTO / Natalia KOLESNIKOVA

In a clear contradiction of Turkey’s current policy in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today in Moscow that Russia, Turkey and Iran agree that the number one priority in Syria is not regime change, but suppressing the terrorist threat.

During a press conference of the foreign ministers of the three countries following the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Ankara by a Turkish police officer, Lavrov announced a joint declaration to end the crisis in Syria among Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Accordingly, the three countries are ready to work on an agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition and become the guarantors of such a deal.

Likewise, the three counties expressed determination on fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al Nusra Front, both of which have been designated terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, a joint investigative team of Russian and Turkish experts are searching for the connections of the assassin, who chanted slogans similar to those of the Al Nusra Front.

Despite expectations of tension between Turkey and Russia following the ambassador’s assassination, Lavrov said on Tuesday that those who plotted the murder would not be able to disrupt the fight against terrorism.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has been strongly defending the removal of embattled President Bashar al Assad. For years, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu defined regime change as their goal.

Turkey has been accused of actively supporting the Syrian opposition and sending arms to extremist groups.  However, at today’s press conference Lavrov also said that Russia, Iran and Turkey agree that there is no military solution to the Syria crisis.

Supporting the Russian foreign minister’s comments, his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, also said the permanent solution in Syria is a political one.

However, he added that aid to foreign groups such as Hezbollah and others should be cut, in a veiled criticism of Iran’s support for the Syrian regime.

According to Çavuşoğlu, what is important is implementing the decisions taken by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Turkey’s stance in Syria has until recently been against the position that Russia and Iran hold in favor of the Syrian regime.

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