The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday discussed the crisis in Syria with his Turkish and Russian counterparts by phone and proposed to host a trilateral meeting in Tehran. Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara over fighting in Syria.
According to Iran's state TV, Rouhani told his Turkish counterpart that innocent people should be protected in Syria's northwest province.
"Idlib's situation is very complicated, considering the presence of dangerous terrorists that should be uprooted and the necessity to protect innocent people living there," Rouhani told Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Escalation is not in anyone's interest in the region, we need to resolve issues through dialogue, and not allow the Astana Process to weaken," Tasnim News Agency quoted Rouhani as saying.
But Rouhani's invitation to host a meeting comes at a time that Iran is grappling with a coronavirus epidemic and it seems unlikely Putin and Erdogan would travel to Tehran.
According to Tasnim, the Turkish President told Rouhani diplomatic dialogue is the only way to resolve the situation in Syria, called for Iran's cooperation and expressed concern about the failure of the Astana Process. The Astana Process refers to trilateral ministerial meetings on Syria between Iran, Russia and Turkey.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Erdogan held crisis talks on Saturday amid rising tensions after 33 Turkish soldiers died in an airstrike by Moscow-backed Syrian government warplanes.
At the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo restated Washington’s support for NATO ally Turkey, saying the U.S. was “reviewing options to assist” Ankara against Syrian and Russian “brutality.”
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the fighting in Syria as "one of the most alarming moments" of the nine-year civil war.
He called for an immediate cease-fire. The increased fighting in Idlib Province raised new concerns for civilians caught up in the long conflict. The UN said nearly a million people, about half of them children, have been displaced since December by the fighting amid the bitter winter weather.
"There is always room for dialogue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. He said the leaders spoke of "the necessity to do everything" to implement a 2018 cease-fire in Idlib that has since collapsed.
Although Russian warplanes generally back Syrian forces, Erdogan put the blame for the deadly attack directly on the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Erdogan may travel to Moscow for talks next week.