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Parties to Syria talks in Astana to discuss humanitarian issues, situation in Idlib

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State, David Satterfield and a Jordanian delegation are also in Astana

ASTANA, October 31. /TASS/. Humanitarian issues and the situation in Idlib Governorate are bound to dominate a new round of talks on Syria that begins on Tuesday in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. The participants will spend the morning hours in intensive consultations and will gather for a plenary session at around 12:00 hours UTC.

The scope of humanitarian issues includes adoption of a provision on a workgroup for freeing the hostages and prisoners of war, the transfer of bodies of the dead, and search for missing people.

The sides will also consider struggle with international terrorism and will issue a joint statement on humanitarian mine clearing on the Syrian territory.

Heading the Russian delegation at the talks is the Russian President’s special envoy for Syrian peace settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev. Iranian delegation reports to Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Ansari and the Turkish delegation, to Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

The special envoy of the UN Secretary General, Staffan de Mistura did not come to Astana this time, as preparations for the pan-Syrian talks in Geneva are in full swing, and the UN will be represented by chief consultant Milos Strugar.

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State, David Satterfield and a Jordanian delegation are also in Astana.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari represents the Syrian government, while the chief of General Staff of the so-called Syrian Free Army is heading the delegation of the armed opposition.

Alexander Lavrentyev indicated on the eve of the talks that the document on the forcibly held persons and the exchange of bodies of the dead required scrupulous coordination.

"We take up the measures to build trust between the conflicting sides, to resolve the problem of humanitarian mine clearing, and to adopt a document on the forcibly held persons and exchange of bodies of the dead," he said. "This a rather complicated issue and we can’t tap a solution to it for quite some time already."

"It’s a problem that will require scrupulous coordination with due account of legal aspects and details," Lavrentyev said.

In the course of the previous round of talks in mid-September, Russia, Iran and Turkey that act as guarantors of peace settlement in Syria reached agreement on a fourth de-escalation zone in the vicinity of Idlib. They adopted four documents - a mandate on deploying the forces for control over de-escalation, the rules for the functioning of check-points and observation points, the rules for application of military force by control units, the regulations for the operations of check-points and observation points in the security zones, and the setting up of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish coordination center for de-escalation.

In the meantime, the situation around Idlib still requires further stabilization and Moscow hopes to resolve the problems related to it at the current round of talks.

"The sides are raising a broad spectrum of issues, which I hope we’ll manage to coordinate for the sake of stabilization in this highly complicated area where big numbers of Al-Nousra militants are still operating," Lavrentyev said.

All the three guarantor countries will do monitoring in the Idlib area. Consultations continue at present on the sites for deployment of the Iranian and Turkish observers.

Following the provocative seizure of a check-point by militants, units of the Russian military police are returning to the Idlib area.