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Syria warring sides, mediators close 9th round of peace talks in Astana

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view of peace talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana, May 15, 2018 (Photo by AFP)

The ninth round of crisis resolution talks between the Syrian government and armed opposition, mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey, has come to an end in Astana, building a positive outlook for momentous follow-up negotiations.

At the end of the two-day talks in the Kazakh capital, the participants issued a joint statement, emphasizing the need to respect “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity” of the crisis-torn Arab country.

The trio has been mediating the negotiations in the Kazakh capital since January 2017, a month after they joined efforts and brought about an all-Syria ceasefire. The three states act as the guarantors of the truce.

The Astana peace process has helped significantly reduce the violence in Syria through the formation of four de-escalation zones in the country, setting the stage for Syria’s warring sides to focus on negotiations on the political future of their homeland.

The final statement underlined the “key role” the four safe zones are playing in preserving the ceasefire regime, saying their demarcations, which were outlined in Astana last May, need to be respected.

It, meanwhile, reminded that the zones were “temporary,” and that their establishment was not to be misused towards undermining Syria’s territorial integrity.

They also reaffirmed their resolve to keep fighting the Takfiri terror groups operating in Syria, especially Daesh and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.

Eyes on Sochi, Geneva

The ceasefire’s guarantors “decided to hold the next high-level International Meeting on Syria in Sochi in July 2018,” it added.

The Russian resort city hosted the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in January, with 1,500 people representing the Syrian government and foreign-backed opposition in attendance.

The three mediators also committed themselves to continued consultations with the Syrian representatives and the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to pave the way for “the beginning of the Constitutional Committee’s work in Geneva as soon as possible.”

The committee is tasked with working to draft a revised constitution for Syria.

The talks in Astana have been going on in tandem with another series of talks held in Geneva and brokered by the UN. Previous rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the UN over the past five years have failed to achieve tangible results.

At the end of Wednesday’s talks, Alexander Lavrentiev, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, said the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey are likely to meet in late August or early September.

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