Syria ceasefire guarantors set for new round of talks in Kazakhstan

Nur-Sultan, Jul 6 (EFE).- The guarantors of the December 2016 ceasefire in Syria – Russia, Turkey and Iran – are to hold fresh talks on the Syrian conflict on Wednesday and Thursday in the Kazakh capital.

The 16th high-level meeting of the so-called Astana process follows talks held in February in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where Russia, Turkey and Iran expressed concern about the growing power of terrorist groups in the Idlib buffer zone.

The meeting is to be attended by delegations from the Syrian government and the opposition, as well as UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.

Representatives from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq also have been invited since they – along with Turkey and Egypt – have taken in most of the 5.6 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

On the first day, the ceasefire guarantor countries are to hold bilateral and trilateral consultations with the Syrian delegations, as well as meetings with the observer delegations.

Talks are to continue on the second day, which will end with a plenary session.

The negotiations are to focus on humanitarian assistance to Syria, the socio-economic and Covid-19 situations there, prospects for the resumption of the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee (a constituent assembly process in Geneva) and confidence-building measures, including the exchange of prisoners, the release of hostages and the search for missing people.

On Friday, Russia and Turkey reported the exchange of five Syrian soldiers for five members of armed rebel groups.

On the sidelines of the meeting, a working group on forcibly detained persons that consists of the guarantor countries, the UN and experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will meet to address a series of issues, including the situation on the ground in Syria.

Last weekend, at least eight civilians were killed, including six children, and several others were injured in a series of attacks by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, the last opposition stronghold.

Ten days ago, the area was the target of a similar action by Syrian troops in which two civilians, a policeman, three members of a pro-Turkish militia and a fighter from the Organization for the Liberation of the Levant (whose precursor organization was Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front) were killed.

The de-escalation zone was agreed in Sochi in 2018 between Russia, a close ally of Assad’s, and Turkey, which supports the armed opposition and dominates a strip of territory in northern Syria from which it has expelled Kurdish militias.

This area extends over several provinces and surrounds Idlib, which is effectively controlled by the Organization for the Liberation of the Levant. EFE


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