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Iran, Russia, Turkey meet on Syria crisis in Astana amid growing regional fears

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a meeting on Syria in Astana on March 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Iran, Russia and Turkey have held talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, with the aim of making progress towards a political solution to the Syria crisis as diplomatic tensions fan out across the region.

Anuar Zhainakov, a spokesman for Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry, confirmed on Monday that delegations from the three countries, which act as guarantors of the Syria ceasefire, as well as the Syrian government were locked in closed-door talks.

An opposition delegation and UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, were expected to arrive on Monday ahead of Tuesday's plenary session concluding the meeting, the spokesman wrote on Telegram.

The two-day negotiations are set to discuss "further steps to advance the process of resolving the crisis" in Syria, the ministry added.

The Astana peace talks began in January 2017 with the mediation of Russia and Iran as well as Turkey, which backs several armed opposition groups operating against Damascus.

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey on April 4 reaffirmed their commitment to work toward achieving a sustainable ceasefire between the warring sides in Syria and bringing peace and stability to the country.

The latest talks in Astana are the first since Israel attacked dozens of targets inside Syria last week in what the Tel Aviv regime claimed was its most extensive strike against the Arab country in decades.

Israeli soldiers stand next to Merkava Mark IV tanks in a deployment area near the Syrian border in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli officials said the assault early on May 10 was in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that were fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts in the occupied Golan Heights. It also blamed the rocket fire on Iran.

Israel's attacks against Syrian military positions have become more frequent over the past months in the face of major army victories over terrorist groups.

The Astana session is also the first meeting of the three sides since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal with the world powers and said Washington would re-impose sanctions on Tehran last week.

The issue was expected to top the agenda of the talks between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow Monday.

Zarif on Sunday embarked on a whirlwind diplomatic tour to gauge international readiness to guarantee Iran's interests if it decides to remain in a nuclear deal after the US withdrawal. He has already visited Beijing and Moscow and will later head to Brussels.

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