Putin cements powerful new alliance with Iran and Turkey in challenge to Trump and the West as the three leaders vow to bring a 'lasting ceasefire' to Syria at summit in Ankara Iran's Hassan Rouhani joined President Erdogan and President Putin in Ankara Wednesday for talks on Syria. Leaders are attempting to put aside their differences to achieve a 'lasting ceasefire' in the war-torn country. Trio form unlikely allies as Iran and Russia back the Syrian regime while Turkey backs Free Syrian Army rebels. Partnership is increasingly diminishing western influence in the region, as Trump mulls pulling troops out
By CHRIS PLEASANCE FOR MAILONLINE and CHARLIE FAULKNER IN ANKARA FOR MAILONLINE and AFP
12:55 EDT, 4 April 2018
The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Ankara for talks yesterday as they cemented their unlikely alliance over Syria in a challenge to US and western influence in the region.
President Putin, President Erdogan and President Rouhani vowed to work together to create a 'lasting ceasefire', build a hospital for wounded civilians in Eastern Ghouta and allow refugees to return home.
But the deepening ties between the trio will be a concern to the US as its ability to influence the future of the country and the region wains and President Trump openly mulls pulling troops out.
Russia backs the Syrian government in the civil war (in red) and is joined by Iran and increasingly Turkey, though Turkey also backs rebel groups in the country's north (hash-marked red area) which are pitted against Assad. Meanwhile US influence largely relies on Kurdish groups (top right), though its support has been waning amid protests from Ankara
Russia and Iran are strategic partners, with Russia providing military and financial support in return for influence over the Middle East. Turkey, meanwhile, had been courting membership of the European Union but in the past few years has drawn closer to Russia. These deepening ties are of concern to Europe because Turkey acts as an important buffer zone for migrants, filters out jihadis attempting to cross the border, and is a NATO member
Iran's President Rouhani, Turkey's President Erdogan, and Russia's President Putin shake hands as they meet in Ankara on Wednesday and pledge to create a 'lasting ceasefire' in Syria
Iran and Russia have backed the Syrian regime since the start of the civil war, while Turkey has called for Assad to go from power and still backs anti-Assad rebels. However, Erdogan has formed an unlikely partnership with Putin as he attempts to drive armed Kurdish groups from his borders
Russia, Iran and Turkey have been drawn together in their support of Syria. Putin and Rouhani provide Assad with military support and Turkey has now joined their efforts because it wants to crush US-backed Kurdish forces massing on its border.
Putin supplies both countries with sophisticated military equipment. President Erdogan recently signed a $2.5 billion arms deal with Russia for S-400 sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, which has caused consternation among Turkey's fellow Nato members.
And Russia helps both countries on energy. It is also building Turkey a $20 billion nuclear power station, which began construction yesterday, and last year Putin signed a $30 billion energy co-operation deal with Iran.
Through these major deals Russia now finds itself in the position of having influence over Turkey as well as Iran. And these two countries in turn exert huge influence beyond their borders.
Turkey controls much of the flow of middle eastern refugees into Europe. It stemmed the influx after signing a deal with the EU in March 2016 - but if it reversed this agreement the political consequences in Europe would be enormous.
Iran has been accused of supplying arms to the Taliban by the government of Afghanistan and is fueling the conflict in Yemen.
The three leaders have common strategic interests in the Middle East despite backing rival sides in the Syrian civil war
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is an implacably opposed the Syrian regime and his administration provides significant backing for the rebels fighting it.
Trump is also a staunch ally of Israel, most notably announcing the US is to move its embassy to Jerusalem - putting it in direct opposition to Iran, which has threatened to destroy the state.
Under Trump, the US has become a close ally of Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Salman said this week that he recognised Israel's 'right' to its land - becoming the first Arab leader to ever make such an acknowledgement.
He compared Iran's Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler.
At the summit on Wednesday Turkey and Russia said they would work together to build a hospital to treat civilians injured in the fighting in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
The Syrian government has been carrying out an intense bombing and ground campaign against rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta which has left thousands of civilians dead or wounded and drawn international condemnation.
Russia and Turkey also said 160,000 refugees who had fled the conflict into Turkey had been able to return home.
The Ankara summit at Erdogan's presidential palace was the second such summit following one in November 2017 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi hosted by Putin.
'We are determined to take Syria out of this quagmire. There will be no peace in turkey until there is peace in Syria,' Erdogan said at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday.
Turkish and Russian forces would work together to build a medical facility in Eastern Ghouta, as well as establishing 'safe regions on both the Turkish and northern Syrian sides' with facilities such as bakeries and plots of land to build homes and grow food.
'It is about constructing houses [in the safe regions] so these people no longer have to live in tents and containers,' said Erdogan.
Iran and Russia have ties that date from the Cold War while Turkey and Russia are co-operating on defence and energy projects
In a statement from the three leaders, they pledged to 'continue their active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of lasting ceasefire between the conflicting parties'.
'There is no military solution option for the crisis in Syria and we need to cooperate to put an end to the war in the country,' said President Rouhani.
'We have to follow peaceful methods, we need to help the Syrians go back to their homes as soon as possible.'
A third trilateral summit will take place in Tehran though a date has yet to be announced.
Putin's two-day visit was his first international trip since securing a fourth term as president of Russia last month. On Tuesday, he and Erdogan revealed the delivery of Russian S-400 missiles would be brought forward to July 2019.
'We have made our agreement on the S-400s. We have closed this chapter. This job is done,' a defiant Erdogan told journalists during a press conference, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Putin added: 'Our Turkish colleagues made a request in the meetings. We will accelerate the process.'
The leaders also made an appearance at the launch of Turkey's first nuclear power station via video link on the same day.
Russian company Rosatom was granted permission by Turkey's TAEK atomic energy authority on Tuesday to begin work on the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant's first unit.
The plant will have a combined capacity of 4,800 megawatts across four reactors.
The summit comes as President Donald Trump mulls pulling American troops from the region and dropping support for Kurdish groups which it backed in the fight against ISIS
Meanwhile Syrian troops under the command of Assad have recaptured much of the country from ISIS and rebel control