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Diplomat says Moscow expects new Syrian groups to join ceasefire at Astana talks

Russian deputy foreign minister says Turkey should ensure Syrian opposition’s participation in Astana talks

MOSCOW, January 19. /TASS/. The possibility of increasing the number of ceasefire participants will be discussed at the Astana talks, Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Thursday.

According to the diplomat, in particular, the armed groups operating in southern Syria could join the ceasefire.

When asked if a renewed ceasefire agreement was planned to be signed in Astana, he said that "the agreement already exists, I believe, the number of participants could increase."

Bogdanov added that since the December 29 agreements took effect, numerous armed groups had the time to assess them. "We hope that many other groups, particularly those operating in southern Syria, will join the agreements and take steps to implement them," the Russian diplomat noted.

Turkey should ensure the Syrian opposition groups’ meaningful participation in the Astana talks, he went on.

When asked if the Ahrar al-Sham group’s statement, in which it refused to take part in the upcoming talks, meant that the ceasefire agreement would not apply to the group, Bogdanov said that "this is not their final word, we should wait."

According to him, "three countries have been making preparations for the Astana talks as its guarantors." "In this case, Turkey’s role is very important," the Russian diplomat added. "They should make sure that the groups, bound to abide by the ceasefire, meaningfully participate in the Astana meeting.".