By Kamila Aliyeva
Foreign ministers of the ceasefire guarantor countries - Russia, Iran and Turkey - have gathered in Astana on March 16 to discuss the de-escalation zones in Syria, as well as political and humanitarian issues.
The top diplomats are expected to sum up the results of the Astana format, which was launched more than a year ago, and also outline steps for settling all aspects of the Syrian crisis, TASS reported.
The sides will focus on the situation in Eastern Ghouta, in the Idlib de-escalation zone and implementing the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on setting up a constitutional commission and continuing talks in Geneva.
The ministers plan to agree on recommendations for Damascus and the opposition on the Syrian settlement and also adopt a joint statement.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov delivered a welcome speech on behalf of the hosting state, Kazinform reported.
“As you know one year ago Presidents of Russia and Turkey proposed Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold peacemaking talks between the Syrian Government and representatives of armed opposition. Being convinced that the only alternative to warm is peace and the only way to peace is a dialogue, Kazakhstan gave consent and proposed Astana as a platform to support the intra-Syrian talks under the UN aegis,” he said.
There are certain obstacles on the way to peace, but the eight rounds of negotiations which took place in Astana allowed to put an end to the dead-end situation in the negotiation process, according to the minister.
This initiative had the conflicting parties sit at the common negotiation table in 2017, the diplomat noted.
Speaking at the meeting, Russia's Minister Sergei Lavrov noted the importance of the Astana process for Syrians who are currently suffering from military conflict.
Lavrov stressed that the Astana process has put the Kazakh capital on the map as an important platform, where decisions on one of the most pressing issues on the international agenda are made, adding that “millions of Syrians look at Astana with hope”.
He noted that the Astana format, established by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, proved its relevance, becoming synonymous with the progress towards normalizing the situation in Syria and promoting a political and diplomatic settlement.
Russia's top diplomat reminded that the Astana process already resulted in the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, determining the principles of humanitarian demining, as well as the creation of a working group on the release of detained.
The work of the guarantor countries also facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid and created the conditions for the resumption of a full-fledged political process in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, according to the minister.
To date, eight rounds of negotiations on the Syrian conflict were held in Astana.
In December 2017, during the eighth international meeting on Syria, the guarantor countries agreed on establishing a working group on the release of detainees/abductees and handover of the bodies as well as the identification of missing persons, and adopted a joint statement on humanitarian demining in Syria, including UNESCO's cultural heritage sites.
On the basis of its results, Russia, Iran and Turkey coordinated terms of holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress on January 29-30 in Sochi.
Guarantors of a nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime - Russia, Turkey and Iran - had agreed on May 4 in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to establish "de-escalation zones" in war-torn Syria. De-escalation zones in Syria allowed to significantly reduce the scale of the conflict and contributed to the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Syria.
While the Astana process is separate from the UN’s Geneva talks on Syrian crisis, the attendance of the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura links the Kazakh platform to broader international efforts.
Syria has been locked in civil war since March 2011. All previous efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution were ruined, with the opposition demanding Assad leave power, the government insisting he stay on, and neither side able to force the issue by achieving a military victory.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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