In talks with Turkish president, supreme leader says military action is harmful

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed on Tuesday that preserving Syria’s territorial integrity is of great importance, saying that any military action in the north of the Arab state will benefit terrorists.

He made the remarks during a meeting with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was also attended by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Khamenei said such military action in northern Syria will prevent the Syrian government from implementing expected political measures.

Iran’s top leader said ensuring “the Muslim world’s glory and greatness” depends on resolving differences and remaining cognizant in the face of divisive policies, according to the official news agency IRNA.

He highlighted the necessity of fighting terrorism, giving the assurance that Teheran will cooperate with Ankara in the fight against terrorism.

Calling for improved bilateral relations, Erdogan said Ankara has always been against Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Teheran.

Turning to the two countries’ yearslong battles against terrorists, Erdogan noted that there are terror groups in Syria that are supported and heavily armed by Western countries, defending his country’s planned military operations in northern Syria.

Erdogan arrived in Iran on Monday night to take part in a trilateral summit on the Syrian crisis with Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. The trilateral summit aims to find a political resolution to the Syrian crisis. No further information about the summit had been released as of press time.

The three countries are working together to try to minimize the violence in Syria despite backing opposing sides in the conflict. Moscow and Teheran support the Syrian government, while Ankara has backed the opposition. The three leaders are guarantor countries of the Astana Process, which was initiated in 2017 for peace in Syria.

Another issue on the agenda is to prevent war and further displacement of a new wave of Syrian refugees and Syria’s humanitarian situation.

Teheran and Moscow on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding, in which the latter is to make an investment worth roughly $40 billion in Iran’s petroleum industry, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s news service Shana reported.

“The trilateral summit on Syria in Teheran is very important given that the three countries have the biggest geopolitical and security interests in the future direction of Syria,” said Henelito Sevilla Jr, dean and professor in the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines.

Khaled Almasri, former dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy at Al-Sham Private University in Damascus, noted that Russia has worked on the ground in Syria with Iran many times “as the result of pragmatism of the Russian leaders”.

The trilateral summit took place just days after US President Joe Biden’s first official Middle East tour since assuming office in January last year.