Iran, Russia and Turkey will begin a two-day trilateral meeting in Tehran on Tuesday to discuss peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced today. According to the Iranian media, a United Nations representative will also attend the meeting. “The expert-level meeting in Tehran is held pursuant to discussions between Iran, Russia and Turkey in order to find ways to consolidate the ceasefire in Syria,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said. He added that the meeting is in preparation for the upcoming Syria summit in Kazakhstan slated for early next month. The third round of Russia-sponsored negotiations between the Syrian government and rebel groups was held in Astana in March.
Comment: While Tehran and Moscow in diplomatic forums stress the need to enforce a ceasefire in Syria and negotiate a peaceful settlement to the country’s six-year civil war, their actions on the ground tell a different story. Recently, Iran-controlled forces and the Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes, have intensified military operations against opposition groups in the Syrian province of Hama. Last month, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) reportedly dispatched large numbers of its combatants – including from the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Afghan Fatemiyoun Division – to help the Syrian government forces to recapture areas under the control of rebel groups in the Hama region. Read moreover, accounts of Syria casualties in the Iranian media show that several Afghan Shiite fighters have been killed in Hama in recent days.
Indeed, when Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu last week after the U.S. retaliatory strikes in Syria, the two leaders decided to intensify joint military efforts to inflict “decisive and crippling blows” to militant groups fighting the Assad regime. “Terrorists must understand that they cannot continue their criminal life. Americans also should pay a heavy price for repeating such actions and realize that their actions will not go unanswered,” Dehghan told Shoygu, according to the Iranian media. “The resistance front," Dehghan added, referring to Iran-controlled militia forces, "with all its power and firm determination, will continue counter-terrorist measures despite what America wants."