Putin, Erdogan plan second Syrian dialogue

Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said that plans were underway for a second gathering of Syrian representatives to devise a political solution to the bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.

“We have spoken about Syria. We will gather again as soon as possible in Sochi,” Erdogan said on Monday, referring to the Russian Black Sea resort that hosted the first Syrian National Dialogue Congress, Efe news reported.

“Naturally, the focus was made on the situation in the Middle East settlement that has deteriorated dramatically and on the Syrian affairs where our countries are closely cooperating,” Putin said during a joint press conference with Erdogan in Ankara.

The Russian President arrived here after brief stops earlier Monday in Damascus and Cairo.

“We are conducting joint work to prepare and convene the Syrian National Dialogue Congress at the beginning of the next year. It is a secret to no one that I spoke about it with President (Bashar) Assad during my today’s visit to Syria,” Putin said.

He recalled that convening a conference of Syrian leaders was a commitment he, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made when they met on November 22 in Sochi.

Turning to another aspect of the situation in the Middle East, Erdogan took the opportunity to again criticise US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Israel sees the recent process as an opportunity to intensify its acts of oppression and violence against the Palestinians,” the Turkish president said.

Putin seconded the sentiments of his host.

“Both Russia and Turkey believe that the decision of the United States administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to that city in no way promotes the settlement of the situation in the Middle East. On the contrary, it destabilizes the situation in the region, which is already tense,” the Russian leader said.

Erdogan said that he expected this week’s special summit in Istanbul of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to generate a “strong message” on the issue of Jerusalem.