UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2018
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UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

LONDON: Iran’s ballistic missile program and the destabilizing role it plays in the region will be high on the agenda of discussions between European leaders and Tehran according to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
He said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran.
He made the comments during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat following last week’s announcement by the US president that the US would exit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“The situation has changed in terms of the US decision,” he said. “But the issues which have concerned the United States and led them to pull out are extremely important and it appears clear that these must be addressed by the Iranians as well. Iran cannot rely solely on its adherence to the JCPOA and not take action in other areas. The UK will continue its obligations under the JCPOA and find ways to involve Iran positively in the region.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said Washington still wants to work with its European partners on an agreement to counter Iran’s “malign behavior.”
Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that he had been asked by the president “to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America.”
Burt urged restraint among all parties to avoid the risk of escalating the crisis while also stressing the right of Israel to defend itself.
Turning to the situation in Syria, Burt said that the UK had advised the Trump administration to remain “engaged and active” militarily and politically in Syria.
He said that the UK advocated a political transition to free Syria from conflict and a leader who had exercised brutality against his own people.
“Firstly the conflict in Syria needs to stop, the fighting need to stop and the UN resolutions for cease-fires need to be respected by all sides in order to give the political process a chance. Secondly the Geneva process should be followed to provide the political space for conclusions to be drawn. Thirdly, it must ultimately be for the people of Syria to make their decisions about their own country and direction and shape that it has. But fourthly, in terms of that ultimate solution to the political issue, everyone should be working toward something where the chance of conflict in the future is completely minimized or eliminated,” he said.
He added: “We would certainly encourage the United States to remain very active in Syria to the extent that if it really wishes to see the defeat of Daesh, it must also ensure that as well as the military defeat of Daesh — circumstances which gave rise to the movement in the first place — are not rekindled and that probably requires a longer term presence from all of us.”

Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.