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Russia, Turkey, Iran urge Saudi Arabia to help solve Syrian crisis

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from left, meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, second from right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis. Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from left, meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, second from right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis. Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency

MOSCOW, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow, Iran and Turkey believe Saudi Arabia should join efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war.

Russian, Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers met in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis and to draft a joint statement in which they attempted to prepare rebel forces to "negotiate with the government, and put them at the same table with the government, so they can develop between themselves some arrangements that would advance the political process," Churkin said.

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Russia, a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began conducting airstrikes in September 2015 against Assad's enemies, which include the rebel opposition and the Islamic State.

Churkin said it was important the joint statement contained invitations to other influential nations to join the efforts to resolve the war.

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"It seems to me it would be very important for Saudi Arabia to take a similar stance and work in the same direction," Churkin told state-run Russia-24.

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Churkin said talks between Russia and the United States, which leads an international coalition against the Islamic State, over Syria have stalled but suggested dialogue could resume under Donald Trump's administration, citing his personal interpretation of recent events. He said Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, said he planned to convene a new round of talks over the Syrian crisis in early February.

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"I'm sure he did it only after he had found an opportunity to contact the people on Donald Trump's team and to coordinate the date with them," Churkin said. "That's good enough a sign because it could be indicative of the ability of the Trump administration to steer the situation towards a rapid enough unfolding of the political process."

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TASS Russian news agency reported the Russian Ministry of Defense said Russian and U.S. defense officials worked together to implement a "memorandum of understanding on air safety aimed at minimizing the risks of in-flight incidents among coalition and Russian warplanes operating in Syria" while east Aleppo is being evacuated of rebels and civilians.

No incidents have occurred between Russian and U.S. air forces since at least Nov. 3, the Russian Defense Ministry added.

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, on Wednesday said the east Aleppo evacuation is "being completed."

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