Syria peace talks in Astana reject separatist agendas

ANKARA

Separatist agendas undermining Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were rejected during the just-concluded 11th round of Syria peace talks in the Astana format, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

“In the meeting, ongoing efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict were coordinated and developments on the ground were discussed,” the ministry said in a statement.

Rejecting all attempts to create new faits accompli on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, the participants expressed their determination “to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries,” the statement added.

The two-day round of talks concluded on Thursday with a meeting between the representatives of Russia and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime in the Kazakh capital.

The ministry said the participants reaffirmed their common determination to intensify consultations and finalize the establishment of a constitutional committee as soon as possible.

The participants’ determination to fully implement the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area was reiterated, stressing the importance of a lasting cease-fire in Idlib, the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the participants welcomed the mutual and simultaneous release of several persons, detained by opposition groups and the regime, on Nov. 24 as a pilot project of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons.

The statement said the 12th round of the high-level meetings on Syria will be held next February in Astana.

Idlib deal

The first meeting in the Astana format for reaching a cease-fire in Syria was held in January 2017.

Nine meetings were held in Astana, while the 10th was held in Sochi, Russia this July.

The final declaration of the July summit held by the guarantor countries in Russia highlighted the establishment of a constitutional committee for Syria.

On July 5, the Syrian Negotiation Commission submitted a list of 50 candidates to represent the Syrian opposition in the constitutional committee to outgoing UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

After a meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sept. 17, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.

Under the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.

On Oct. 10, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups had completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Idlib demilitarized zone.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, the Assad regime and its allies have continued their low-intensity attacks on Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Source: AA