Photo Credit: YouTube screen capture / Ruptly
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's President Vladimir Putin clasp hands in Ankara at the start of a trilateral meeting on Syria, April 4, 2018

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a warm welcome waiting Wednesday morning (April 4) for his Iranian counterpart, President Hassan Rouhani, as the two men met ahead of a trilateral meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that began a few hours later.

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Putin hosted the first trilateral meeting on Syria in November 2017 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the three leaders discussed the progress – and lack of it – made in the Astana peace talks along with reviewing the changes made in the de-escalation zones across Syria.

Rouhani told Iranian state television before leaving Tehran Tuesday night that foreign forces operating in Syria without the approval of the Damascus government should leave – clearly referring both to the United States, and to Ankara.

Last month Erdogan and March agreed to advance efforts towards a cease-fire in order to “end the tragedy in Eastern Ghouta and to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians,” according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

In March, opposition forces agreed to a plan negotiated by the Russian defense ministry in which they and their families were evacuated from Eastern Ghouta and transported safely to Idlib, which is still controlled by the rebel forces.

Rouhani said Tuesday that his meeting Wednesday with Erdogan and Putin would focus on reconstruction in Syria, as well as work on a new constitution. However, Iran also has territorial and military investments in Syria; it is not clear whether any of those issues will come up in Wednesday’s talks.

Turkish forces, meanwhile, have invaded northern Syria in an effort to wipe out the Kurdish YPG forces, with Erdogan vowing to push the campaign to northeastern Syria as well.

Some half a million Syrians have been killed and millions more are displaced and homeless within and outside the country since the start of the seven-year civil war.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said America will “not rest until ISIS is gone,” but also said just hours before the summit that he will “soon” begin to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, although he hasn’t mentioned any timetable – nor has he talked about leaving a peacekeeping force to maintain the gains that were made in routing the Islamic State terrorist organization. Military analysts say there’s a danger of repeating the mistakes made years ago in Iraq if the U.S. removes its forces from Syria too soon; Trump says, however, “It’s time.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.