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Lavrov says Egypt could join Syria talks in Astana

Russia’s top diplomat noted that the issue was discussed during a telephone conversation between Putin and the Egyptian president

MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed the hope that Egypt will join the negotiations on the Syrian settlement in Astana, while Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Iraq could join them at subsequent stages.

"Considering all these consultations, we are beginning to get ready for the meeting in Astana together with the Turks and Iranians," he said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which focused on the agreements on a ceasefire in Syria and the beginning of negotiations. "Given the importance of expanding the number of guarantor states, we consider inviting our Egyptian counterparts to join these agreements." Russia’s top diplomat noted that the issue was discussed during a telephone conversation between Putin and Egyptian President , Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, earlier on Thursday.

"In the future, at some other stages, perhaps, we need to attract some other key players, which have an impact on developments in Syria. These are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Jordan," Lavrov said, adding that the UN’s representative will be invited as well, which will make it possible "to ensure the continuity of the political process."

Lavrov noted that the Syrian settlement process launched by Russia and Turkey and supported by Iran had been hailed incumbent UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the organization’s new Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who will assume office next year. "In the course of this joint work with the Turkish and Iranian sides, we have informed other partners in the region about what we do," Lavrov said.

Breakthrough ceasefire deal 

The command of the Syrian Armed Forces has declared a nationwide ceasefire from midnight on December 30 local time (22:00 GMT), the communique carried by the Syrian state news agency SANA said on Thursday.

The document says the ceasefire will not cover the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (outlawed in Russia) and also the affiliated armed groups.

"The ceasefire agreement has the goal to create the appropriate conditions for the process of political settlement of the crisis," the Syrian army command said.