Turkey's Erdogan vows to bring peace to Syria, Iraq
Turkey will bring peace and safety to Iraq and areas in Syria not under Turkish control, President Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday, pledging to eliminate "terrorist organisations" in those areas.
"It is not for nothing that the only places in Syria where security and peace have been established are under Turkey's control. God willing, we will establish the same peace in other parts of Syria too. God willing, we will bring the same peace to Iraq, where terrorist organisations are active," Erdogan said in a speech in the southeastern province of Mus commemorating the anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, between Seljuks and the Byzantines.
While Turkey has backed rebel groups in Syria since the conflict began, it has recently been working with Russia - which supports Syrian President Bashar al Assad - to resolve the crisis.
Turkey has carried out a number of military operations along its border with the war-torn country and set up a dozen military observations posts in the northern Syrian region of rebel-held Idlib.
The comments came as Iran pledged its "presence, participation and assistance" in reconstructing war-torn Syria, in a visit made by a top Tehran defence official to Damascus on Sunday.
Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Syria and met with his Syrian counterpart Abdullah Ayoub, then with Assad, pledging to contribute to the war-torn country's reconstruction.
"Syria is in a very, very important juncture. It is passing through the critical stage and it is entering the very important stage of reconstruction," said Hatami, in comments carried by Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.
He said it was agreed with Syria that Iran would have "presence, participation and assistance" in reconstruction "and no third party will be influential in this issue".
World powers who long called for Assad's ouster insist reconstruction aid should only come with political transition, but fellow regime ally Russia is pressing them to provide support.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard is a key player in Syria, having flooded the country with foreign militia fighters.
The quasi-paramilitary force also operates thousands of companies, including construction giants, that helps the Guard retain a powerful hold over domestic politics.
Tehran and Damascus have had strong ties for years. Iran has dispatched military forces to Syria, describing them as "advisors".
Iran-backed militias, including the Lebanese Hizballah movement, have also backed Assad's troops, helping regime forces avoid complete collapse.
Tehran has poured in thousands of foreign fighters, which have been critical to the regime's recent successes against opposition forces.
With crucial military support from allies Russia and Iran, Assad's troops have recaptured most rebel strongholds across the country. The northern province of Idlib is the last major remaining opposition bastion.
The ruthless offensives waged on opposition-held territory- including hundreds thousands of civilians killed - have formed the basis of Assad's strategy to reclaim land.