Turkey to Iran: Stop Syria truce violations

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Iran to exert pressure on Shia-backed militias and the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad to stop violating a ceasefire in Syria, warning it was putting planned peace talks in peril.

Turkey is working with Russia on the question of sanctions for those who violate the ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Ankara and Moscow, Cavusoglu said in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency.

He warned that peace negotiations being prepared by Moscow in the Kazakh capital of Astana could fail if increased ceasefire violations are not halted.

Cavusoglu’s remarks come as reports indicate that several Syrian opposition groups have suspended Turkey and Russia-brokered truce talks with the Syrian regime.

A statement released by groups operating under the US and Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) said: “The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations.”

The statement criticised the Assad regime and the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah for these ceasefire violations, and said that the truce could not be considered to be in effect due to Russia’s inability to rein in its partners.

Since the ceasefire came into effect last Friday, the Assad regime, backed by various Iranian Shia jihadist militant groups, has consistently violated it.

Nowhere have these violations been clearer than the strategic Wadi Barada valley that supplies the Syrian capital of Damascus with water. The Assad regime’s intensification of aerial attacks, including through the use of barrel bombs, has resulted in continued clashes in the region.

Wadi Barada not only supplies the majority of Damascus’ water supplies, but it also lies close to a major supply route that Hezbollah uses to move men and arms between Lebanon and Syria.

The Turkish Foreign Minister also announced in the same interview that Russian officials will visit Turkey between 9-10 January to discuss the framework for the planned Syrian peace talks, though it was not.

Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war but have brokered a fragile ceasefire, slated to be followed by peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.