Turkish-Russian deal on Idlib ‘last chance,’ Turkish FM says

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An agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert a regime assault on the Idlib province is a “last chance” for a political solution in Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Sept. 26.

“We should not miss this opportunity,” said Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency in New York after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations headquarters.

Lavrov called it a “good” meeting but gave no details, according to the Associated Press.

Çavuşoğlu said peace and stability should be restored in war-torn Syria through a political process.

He said the deal between Turkey and Russia should be used to accelerate the political process by uniting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces.

“The most important step we can take in the upcoming period is the establishment of a constitutional committee,” said Çavuşoğlu.

“Today, we shared our views regarding the immediate establishment of the constitutional committee,” he said.

The foreign minister said Turkey’s priority was to accelerate the political process and urged continued joint efforts with Russia and Iran.

Last week, Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold, following a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Turkey and Russia also signed a memorandum of understanding at the meeting calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib’s de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Under the pact, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to ward off renewed fighting.

European Day of Languages

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister on Sept. 26 marked Turkish Language Day and the European Day of Languages.

In a message coinciding with the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York, Çavuşoğlustressed the importance of language as a means of “preserving and maintaining cultural heritage.”

“Hence, in a world where over 6,000 languages are spoken, language is the only tool to sustain the particularities and elegance of a culture,” he added.

Encouraging the learning of new languages, Çavuşoğlu says this helps mutual understanding and communication as well as the preservation of cultural linguistic heritage.

Çavuşoğlu cited the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and mystic poet Mevlana Rumi to illustrate the value of language in shaping humanity’s horizons as well as its role in facilitating better understanding and overcoming barriers between various cultures.

“The European Union has prioritized multiculturalism with its principle of ‘unity in diversity’ and has supported this with its principle of multilingualism. On this occasion, I would like to hail Sept. 26, Turkish Language Day and European Day of Languages,” he said.

First marked in 2001, the European Day of Languages has since been observed annually by the initiative of the Council of Europe.

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