TEHRAN – With the war in Ukraine still raging, Russian President Vladimir Putin travels Tuesday to Tehran for talks with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts on the Syria conflict.
Russia, Turkey and Iran have in recent years met to discuss Syria as part of the so-called “Astana peace process” to end more than 11 years of conflict in the Arab country.
Tuesday’s summit comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a new offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish militants.
Iran, whose President Ebrahim Raisi is hosting the meeting, has already warned that any Turkish military action in Syria could “destabilize the region”.
The Tehran summit will also enable Erdogan to hold his first meeting with Putin since Russia launched its operation in Ukraine in February.
The Turkish president has for months been offering to meet the Russian leader in a bid to help resolve heightened global tensions since the war began.
Turkey has launched waves of attacks on Syria since 2016, targeting Kurdish militias and Syrian army forces.
Erdogan’s planned military offensive targets Kurdish fighters which Ankara regards as “terrorists”. They include the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara fears a strong Kurdish presence along its border with Syria will embolden the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which for decades has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Syria’s government has repeatedly condemned Turkish threats to mount a new incursion.
Russia has already expressed the hope that Turkey would “refrain” from launching an attack on Syria.
Iran, whose foreign minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian visited both Ankara and Damascus in recent weeks, has also urged caution.
Late last month, Iran’s top diplomat said in Ankara that “we understand that... maybe a special operation might be needed”.
“Turkey’s security concerns must be tackled fully and permanently.”
Days later, Amir-Abdollahian said in Damascus that Turkish military action in Syria “would be a destabilizing element in the region”.
Mazloum Abdi, chief commander of the YPG-linked Syrian Democratic Forces, has urged Russia and Iran to restrain Turkey.
“We hope (the attacks) will not take place and that the Kurds... will not be forsaken during the talks between the big powers,” he said.
Nicholas Heras of the Newlines Institute said Iran and Russia “want to prevent another Turkish military campaign in Syria”.