After a destructive pro-Assad offensive — enabled by Russian airstrikes — near Damascus and ongoing attacks in northwest Syria, the leaders of Iran, Russia, and Turkey have called for “calm on the ground”.

Meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joined counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the statement. The three men said the seven-year can be ended “only through a negotiated political process”.

They also expressed determination to “protect civilians in the de-escalation areas as well as to facilitate rapid and unhindered humanitarian access to these areas”.

The leaders made no reference to the current two-month pro-Assad offensive on East Ghouta, with Russian involvement, which has killed more than 1,700 people, wounded thousands, and displaced more than 100,000. Nor did they mention the Turkish-rebel offensive since January 20 that has claimed most of the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria, or the regime-Russian bombing of opposition areas in Idlib and northern Hama Provinces.

The Russian airstrikes supporting pro-Assad forces in East Ghouta and in the northwest are violating de-escalation zones that were declared by Russia, Iran, and Turkey last year.

Ignoring this, a joint statement by the three sides spoke of their Astana process which “had helped reduce violence across Syria and had contributed to peace and stability in Syria”, and they declared their backing of “active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of a lasting ceasefire”.

The statement “rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism”, inadvertently challenging the standard rationale of the Assad regime.