TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Presidents Rouhani and Putin held a telephone conversation on Tuesday, discussing a range of topics, mainly Syria.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is opposed to the presence of foreign forces on Syrian soil without the permission of the [Arab] country’s government and nation,” the Iranian president said.
Referring to renewed tensions in northern Syria, where Turkey has launched an unauthorized incursion, President Rouhani said, “The continuance of tensions is in no one’s interest, and we hope all regional countries would respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria,” without naming Turkey.
Turkey launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin on January 20 in a bid to eliminate the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Turkey has warned that the Afrin offensive could expand to the nearby Syrian city of Manbij.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Rouhani underlined the importance of continued cooperation between Iran, Russia, and Turkey to fight terrorism and restore peace to Syria, saying that the joint efforts had to be reinforced until the final victory of the Syrian people.
A United States-led coalition, too, is operating in Syria without authorization from the Damascus government.
Russia and Iran have both been offering Syria advisory military help on requests from the Syrian government.
The Russian president, for his part, stressed that Moscow, like Tehran, believed that only the Syrian people had to decide about the future of their country.
He raised alarm about attempts by some extra-regional states to equip terrorists and disintegrate Syria and emphasized that any unauthorized foreign military presence in an independent country was direct interference in its affairs.
Last week, a Russian fighter jet was downed in the militant-held northern Syrian province of Idlib with a projectile fired from a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft MANPAD.
While the US has denied having provided MANPADs to the militants in Syria, Washington and other regional governments opposed to Damascus remain suspects.
Rouhani and Putin further discussed the Syrian peace process in the Kazakh capital of Astana and a recent meeting on Syria in the Russian resort city of Sochi.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Presidents Rouhani and Putin “pointed to effective cooperation between Russian, Iran, and Turkey on the Astana platform. They expressed readiness to continue coordinating their steps to promote the platform and put new issues on the agenda.”
The decisions made in Sochi “were aimed at providing a significant impetus to the political settlement process in Syria based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, as well as at improving the situation in the region,” the statement added.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing peace talks for Syria in Astana since January 2017. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process.
Capitalizing on the achievements of Astana, Russia on January 29-30 convened a high-profile meeting on Syria — the Syrian Congress of National Dialog — in Sochi. Around 1,600 delegates representing a wide range of Syrian political factions attended the Sochi talks.