Astana Talks

Russia, Turkey, Iran make progress on Syria de-escalation zones talks

Xinhua | Song Lifang: Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to form a joint working group on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria during the latest peace talks wrapped up Wednesday in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

The three countries said in a statement released after the talks that they respect the sovereignty and territory integrity of Syria, and believe that the Syrian conflicts could only be resolved by political means.

The three countries will continue to hold talks on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria, the statement said, adding that the next round of peace talks will be held at the end of August in Astana.

Delegations from the Syrian government, Syrian opposition forces, Russia, Turkey and Iran participated in the two-day talks, together with observers from the United Nations, the United States and Jordan.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are negotiating on seven documents related to establishing mechanism on de-escalation zones and coordination center to monitor the implementation, deploying troops and how to use force in the zones, chief of the Russian delegation Alexander Lavrentiev said after the talks.

It is not confirmed that which country would send troops to monitor the situation in de-escalation zones, Lavrentiev said, however, Russian military police will be deployed there.

Establishing de-escalation zones is a temporary measure and resolving the Syria issue need breakthrough in political settlement, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said.

Russia, Turkey and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria on May 4, aiming to ease tensions for at least six months in Syria where the war is in the seventh year.

According to the memorandum, the government and opposition forces will halt fighting in four zones, including the northwestern province of Idlib, the central province of Homs, the eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, and areas in the Daraa and Qunaitera provinces in southern Syria.

The move is to “put an immediate end to the violence,” “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees,” and allow immediate delivery of humanitarian aid, it said.

However, the Syrian opposition refused to accept it, saying the pact threatened Syria’s territorial integrity.