ASTANA, March 16. /TASS/. Foreign ministers from Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations (Russia, Iran and Turkey) - Sergey Lavrov, Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu - will gather in Astana on Friday to discuss the operation of de-escalation zones in Syria and also political and humanitarian issues.
The top diplomats will sum up the results of the Astana format, which was launched more than a year ago, and will also outline steps for settling all aspects of the Syrian crisis.
Russian president’s envoy for the Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev, and director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa department Sergey Vershinin have already arrived in Astana. The representatives of the guarantor states will be received by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The ministers will focus on the situation in Eastern Ghouta, in the Idlib de-escalation zone and implementing the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on setting up a constitutional commission and continuing talks in Geneva.
The top diplomats plan to agree on recommendations for Damascus and the opposition on the Syrian settlement and also adopt a joint statement.
The key achievement of the Astana talks was the creation of four de-escalation zones - in Idlib, to the north of Homs, in Eastern Ghouta and in Syria’s southwest. In September 2017, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed several documents on the operation of these zones. However, due to provocations by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terror groups, outlawed in Russia) the issue on sending monitors to the security zones, including in Idlib, hasn’t been solved.
The most challenging situation is currently in the de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb. Russia launched humanitarian corridors for civilians under the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2401 on ceasefire in Syria, but militants impede the citizens’ evacuation and continue shelling the capital.
The Western countries, namely the US, accuse Russia and the Syrian government of violating the resolution and put forward initiatives to the UN Security Council that the ceasefire should also cover terrorists with the goal of shielding them from strikes.
Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the Astana and Geneva talks are interconnected. As part of efforts to support the political settlement in January Sochi hosted the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. The participants agreed to establish a constitutional commission (100 members of the government, including domestic moderate opposition, and 50 members of external opposition) which will start preparing proposals for Syria’s constitution jointly with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. Lavrov called to start forming this commission as soon as possible.