HMEIMIM /SYRIA/. March 21. /TASS/. The Astana format can be used for solving both military and political issues of the Syrian crisis, head of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Committee for Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky said.
While visiting the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria, based at the Hmeimim Air Base, he reiterated that "in Astana, talks on a new Syrian constitution may be held with representatives of opposing groups."
Slutsky also said that mainly military experts took part in the Astana meetings. "The Astana talks particularly aim at ensuring an early reconciliation and encouraging the highest number of settlements to join the ceasefire," he noted. He pointed out that Russia, Turkey and Iran acted as guarantors at the Astana talks. "However, Turkey insists that in Astana, it is necessary to focus on military issues particularly related to ensuring the ceasefire," the Russian senator said.
According to him, Moscow believes that the talks agenda can be expanded. "But taking into consideration Ankara’s position, the constitution process is mainly taking place at the Geneva talks," Slutsky added. As for various Syrian opposition groups, including those based in foreign countries, they have been participating in talks both in Astana and Geneva, Slutsky pointed out.
He also said that at the next round of the Geneva talks set to be launched on March 23, the proposal to set up a working group for the development of the constitutional process in Syria could be implemented. On Monday, members of the Russian delegation discussed this idea with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is important, in Slutsky’s words, that Assas has upheld the proposal to develop the constitutional process on the platform of the Syrian parliament." "We expect that in the few months to come, a mechanism will be outlined so that the commission will start its work on the parliamentary platform," the Russian lawmaker stressed.
On Tuesday, a parliamentary delegation headed by Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev arrived at the Hmeimim Air Base. The delegation particularly comprises parliament members from European countries, including Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). On Monday, the delegation members met with President Bashar al-Assad.