UAE says role of Turkey, Iran in Syria must be contained

The Turkish and Iranian influence in Syria in the absence of a strong Arab role in the war-torn country is unacceptable; the Gulf News quoted the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as saying on Wednesday.

“In the UAE, we are keen that there’s an Arab role in Syria - political, related to stability and development. Our discussions with Russia are about containing Syria, so that Syria becomes part of the Arab region. Unfortunately, now, Syria is far [from the Arab fold],” Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Arab countries have in recent months moved to thaw relations with Syria. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in January called for Arab states to take a stronger role in the region to counterbalance Turkey and Iran.

Iran and Russia are the main backers of the Syrian regime while Turkey ostensibly backs the Syrian opposition. However, the three countries have united in their opposition to the U.S.’ role in Syria, convening for a summit on Syria in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 14.

Iran and Turkey also united in their fear of a Kurdish state forming in Syria. Turkey has battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for decades, while the Iranian security forces have also fought its affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Both organisations have bases located in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Ankara on Wednesday announced Turkey and Iran will conduct joint operations against the outlawed PKK.