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Iran moves to facilitate Turkey-Syria understanding ahead of Astana summit

The Iranian foreign minister’s recent trips to Damascus and Ankara suggest that Tehran is stepping up its efforts to facilitate and accelerate the political process to end the Syrian crisis.
Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) of Turkey and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, attend the international meeting on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov - UP1EE3G0MWO1V

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif paid an official visit to Turkey on April 17, following his visit to Syria the previous day. Although bilateral issues were a part of the agenda of Zarif’s meetings in both countries, the timing of the trip and the content of his talks in Damascus and Ankara indicated that his diplomatic tour was, more than anything else, related to the international efforts to solve the Syrian crisis.

Zarif’s regional trips come less than 10 days before a new round of Syria peace talks within the framework of the Astana track in which Iran, Turkey and Russia play the leading role. As such, Zarif’s visits to Syria and Turkey have given rise to speculation that the Islamic Republic might be trying to find common ground between the two sides and provide the framework for a breakthrough in the upcoming diplomatic talks. Furthermore, the necessity of finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict was the main mantra repeated by Zarif during all of his meetings in Damascus and Ankara.

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