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MOSCOW, June 8. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks in Moscow with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Thursday. The UN envoy is also expected to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. This is de Mistura’s third visit to the Russian capital in 2017. He came to Moscow in February and March.
According to Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Lavrov and de Mistura will hold intense consultations on the intra-Syrian talks in Astana.
"In general, we will discuss the situation in Syria, the consolidation of the cessation of hostilities, the fight against terrorism, namely, the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terror groups, both outlawed in Russia - TASS) and, of course, the continuation of the political settlement on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254," the diplomat said.
Lavrov and de Mistura will also discuss the dates for the new, seventh round of the intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva due in the first half of June.
According to Qadri Jamil, chairman of the Syrian opposition’s "Moscow group," the next round of the Geneva talks will be devoted to the process of setting up the working groups on four issues (government, elections, constitution and fight against terrorism). However, the exact dates for the negotiations on Syria in Geneva are not known yet.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov pointed to the importance of the existing sequence. "Consultations with de Mistura, working consultations with Turkey and Iran going on simultaneously, useful contacts with opposition groups in southern Syria have been maintained by Jordan. Then there will be a meeting in Astana and then another round of the Geneva talks," he explained.
The possibility of holding a new meeting on Syria in Astana prior to another Geneva round was confirmed by a diplomatic source familiar with the negotiations. "Holding the next round in Geneva is connected with the situation on the ground, the talks in Astana," he told TASS. "It is not ruled out that a new meeting in Astana will be held before the next round of talks in Geneva."
After a meeting on Syria held in Astana on May 3-4 it was reported that the next round of the talks would be held in mid-July. However, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told reporters that Russia offered its partners to meet in Kazakhstan’s capital on June 13-14.
UN representatives, specifically, Staffan de Mistura, have repeatedly spoken out in favor of the Astana process.
Moreover, de Mistura took part in the last, fourth international meeting on Syria in Astana as an observer. He spoke highly of the memorandum on setting up four de-escalation zones in Syria, the main result of that meeting, describing this initiative as a step in the right direction.
The memorandum on de-escalation zones in Syria has also been supported by the UN Security Council. Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry reported following meeting of the UN Security Council on the Syrian settlement held on May 22 that its participants "recognized that the establishment of the de-escalation zones had already reduced the fighting between the conflicting parties."
"The participants in the meeting also noted the significant contribution of the Astana process to the success of the Geneva platform on the search for a common political framework," the ministry said. "It has been generally agreed that the talks in Astana made it possible to consolidate and expand the ceasefire and seek ways to resolve the complex humanitarian situation."
It is expected that the next meeting on Syria in the capital of Kazakhstan will focus on the coordination of the fight against terrorism in Syria. "The agreements should be based on the absolute priority of the fight against terrorism," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "Everything else at this stage, until the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are defeated, must be put aside. Of course, we will discuss these issues at the talks, which will soon continue in Astana."
It is already known that the Russian delegation at that meeting will be led by Russian presidential envoy for the Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentiev. "Taking part in the meeting will also be observers - Jordan, the United States and the UN," Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said. "The delegations of the Syrian government and the armed opposition will likewise take part in it."