Turkey says Russia postpones Syria peace conference

 05 Nov 2017 - 17:52

Turkey says Russia postpones Syria peace conference
A general view shows damaged buildings in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on November 4, 2017. AFP

AFP

Istanbul: Turkey on Sunday said Russia had decided to postpone a planned Syria peace conference this month that had met with a cool reception from Ankara and its Western allies.

There was no confirmation by Russia of the announcement by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, who added that Turkey was not planning to attend the event.

Russia was planning to hold the "Congress of Syrian National Dialogue" on November 18 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to bring together various players in the over six year conflict.

Several Western states had expressed scepticism over the planned conference, saying peace efforts were better off going through the United Nations.

Turkey had also been troubled by the possible involvement of Syrian Kurdish groups like the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which control much of northern Syria but are considered by Ankara to be terror organisations.

The plan had been announced by Russia after the latest peace talks on Syria, also backed by Turkey and Iran, in the Kazakh capital Astana.

"We immediately objected," Kalin told NTV television.

"The Kremlin then got in touch with us and said they were postponing the meeting.

"So as of now, if there is no change, the meeting will not be taking place on November 18 but at a later date.

"The Syrian groups will take part but most likely we will just send an observer. Russia has told us the meeting has been postponed and the PYD is not taking part."

Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, Russia and Turkey have been working together intensely since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria.

Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow's military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

Although Turkey's policy is officially unchanged, Ankara has notably cooled its rhetoric against the Damascus regime since its cooperation with Russia began to strengthen.

Russia and Turkey are now enforcing four so-called de-escalation zones in flashpoint areas in Syria in a bid to pave the way for peace, including the northern Idlib province which is largely controlled by jihadists.