The three mediators of the Astana peace process on Syria — Russia, Turkey and Iran — have expressed their concerns about the presence of Takfiri terrorist groups in Idlib, underlining the need for the restoration of peace to the northwestern Syrian province, which is the last main militant bastion in the Arab state.
“The parties have reiterated their commitment in re-establishing calm in Idlib and in preserving the de-escalation status of the area,” the trio said in a joint statement released on Wednesday after the 14th round of the Astana talks in the Kazak capital, Nur-Sultan.
Idlib remains the only large area in the hands of anti-Damascus militants after the Syrian military — backed by Iran and Russia — managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.
Press Release Regarding the High-Level Meeting on Syria Held in Nur-Sultan on 10-11 December 2019 https://t.co/wNZXoCSb6g— Turkish MFA (@MFATurkey) December 11, 2019
The Astana guarantors also opposed the illegal seizure and transfer of Syria’s oil revenues, rejecting attempts “to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives.”
They further dismissed “separatist agendas that pose threat to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria as well as to the national security of the neighboring countries.”
Touching on the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, the three nations stressed that it should be governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement without foreign interference and externally imposed timelines.
“In the meeting, the parties expressed satisfaction on the convening of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. They reiterated their continued support to the sustainability of the Committee’s work,” read the statement.
The 14th round of the Astana talks is being held on December 10-11.
The discussions have brought representatives from Syria’s warring parties to the negotiating table and resulted in the establishment of safe zones across the country.
‘Idlib must be freed’
In another development on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syria’s Idlib had been taken over by the al-Qaeda-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, but that it had to be liberated eventually.
“The final result of the development of the situation should be complete liberation of this zone from terrorists, and restoration of legitimate government’s control over this entire territory,” he said during a press conference in Washington.
Terrorists, he noted, occupied Idlib and attacked Syrian troops, civilian infrastructure and Russia’s Hmeimim Air Base.
Russian and Syrian forces responded to militant attacks, but it is impossible to maintain the status quo, he added.