ISTANBUL, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) — Visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday discussed the situations in Syria and Iraq with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as Ankara is a key partner in returning peace to the war-torn Arab countries.
Referring to the ongoing diplomatic efforts in ending the conflict in Syria, which has lasted almost six years, the UN chief said he was grateful that “the Astana conference was held in support of the Geneva process,” according to a press release issued by the world body after the meeting.
“The secretary-general underscored the need to fight terrorism and extremists in Syria but that effort would not be successful without a political solution supported by the people of country,” the press release said.
Russia, Turkey and Iran have initiated a series of meetings since last month in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana, including one that brought together representatives of the Syrian government and armed opposition groups for the first time after Syria was plunged into chaos in March 2011, paying the way for UN-led peace talks in Geneva now slated for Feb. 20.
In his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Istanbul a day earlier, Guterres laid emphasis on an “inclusive” representation at Geneva talks.
In his discussions with Erdogan about Iraq, Guterres stressed that the ongoing operations to retake Mosul and other areas from the Islamic State should not exacerbate sectarianism “but instead be a symbol of national reconciliation.”
Turkey has a military presence near Mosul, and it waded in Syria militarily in August last year, making it a key player in the war games in the neighboring countries.
The UN chief lauded Ankara’s “outstanding generosity” in hosting millions of refugees from Syria and Iraq, and discussed with Ergodan the latest developments in Cyprus peace process.
On Friday, Guterres and Yildirim voiced optimism for a breakthrough solution in the near future to the Cyprus issue that would satisfy both Turkish and Greek communities.
Following his first ever visit to Turkey, the UN chief is continuing his Middle East tour that takes him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Egypt.