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Russia’s envoy sees chance to bridge gap between Damascus and opposition

Neither Damascus nor opposition have objections against setting up working groups on constitution

ASTANA, February 16. /TASS/. Basis has been created to bridge the gap between Damascus and the Syrian opposition, Russian president’s special envoy for the Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentyev, who leads the Russian delegation to the Astana international meeting on Syria, said on Thursday:

"They, the Syrians, still have much in common," he said. "There is basis to bridge the remaining gaps. Detailed work will be needed for that."  

Neither Damascus nor Syria’s armed opposition have objections against setting up working groups on Syria’s new constitution: 

"Issues of the constitution and the launch of the political process were discussed in general at meeting with the delegations from Damascus and the armed opposition," he said. "Neither of the sides voiced any objections against setting up working groups on the constitution or against the necessity to launch a constitutional reform."

Damascus' stance 

Astana has paved the way for further talks on the Syrian settlement in Geneva, Damascus’ chief negotiator at the Astana talks Bashar al-Jaafari said: 

"Astana has paved the way for talks in Geneva. All of the Astana meeting’s decisions must be reckoned with. We must not start afresh each time."

He said he assesses "the Astana process as positive as it serves a good goal of strengthening the ceasefire." "It can be used to draw a division line between groups that have signed the ceasefire agreement and those groups that have refused to do that, i.e. to single out those who believe in political settlement and separate them from terrorists," he added. 

Damascus is committed to the ceasefire, but will respond to the terrorists’ provocations, Jaafari added:

"We’ll take all measures to strengthen the ceasefire. But we have the right to respond to terrorists’ provocations."

According to the envoy, Syria "has the right of veto as reaction to the breach of these measures by terrorist armed groupings."

"Syria will be taking efforts to liberate every patch of our land from the dominance of terrorist groupings - we mean the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra [both outlawed in Russia] and others, and also those, which are not observing the ceasefire," the head of the Syrian delegation said.