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Putin to attend trilateral Syria summit with Turkey, Iran

MOSCOW: The Kremlin confirmed on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend a trilateral summit next week with the leaders of Turkey and Iran in Ankara on efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict.
The summit, scheduled for Monday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, is to focus on Syria’s rebel-held Idlib region, which borders Turkey.
Turkey, which supports certain rebel groups, has been seeking to thwart a Syrian state offensive into the north-western Syrian region in an effort to avert the exacerbation of a humanitarian crisis near its border.
Next week marks one year since Russia, which supports the Syrian state, clinched a peacekeeping deal with Turkey for the Idlib region. Iran, an ally of Russia and the Syrian state, has also been involved in efforts to secure civilian safe zones in the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, Hungary rejected on Thursday criticism of a plan by Budapest to send a diplomat to Syria next year, the first time an EU member state is to upgrade its diplomatic presence there since the start of the war.
Starting next year Hungary will send a diplomat to Syria to follow up on humanitarian support for Christian communities there and conduct consular duties, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“We urge all states against reestablishing or upgrading their diplomatic relations or economic cooperation with the (President Bashar al Assad) regime,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Budapest sent to AFP.
“Such actions undercut efforts to move toward a permanent, peaceful, and political solution to the Syrian conflict,” it said.
A diplomat from a western EU country said that “we are concerned because of the signal of legitimisation and normalisation it would send to the regime”.
But Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto blasted the criticism as “very unfair”.
“If it’s a problem that a Hungarian diplomat travels there a couple of times a year, then what do they tell our Central European friends who still have their embassies? Let’s not apply double standards,” he said.
Only the Czech Republic still has an embassy in Damascus, while other EU countries, the US and Canada are among those which have closed their missions, breaking off relations with the Assad regime.
Romania technically still has an embassy in Syria, but the ambassador is based in Beirut. Bulgaria has a charge d’affaires. — dpa/AFP

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