Politics, middle east

Final de-escalation zone agreed at Syrian peace talks

Turkish, Russian, Iranian observers will be deployed at control, checkpoints to be established in Idlib de-escalation zone

  | 15.09.2017
Final de-escalation zone agreed at Syrian peace talks

By Selen Temizer and Muhammed Shekh Yusuf

ASTANA, Kazakhstan 

A sixth round of Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana ended on Friday.

The three guarantor states, as well as representatives of the Damascus regime and some opposition factions, met in Astana for a sixth round of talks aimed at ending the six-year conflict.

The parties at the Syrian talks in Kazakhstan have agreed the boundaries of the final de-escalation zone in the northern province of Idlib, Turkish and Russian diplomatic officials said.

Officials from Turkey, Russia and Iran have agreed the borders of the zone in Idlib and are negotiating over which monitors will be deployed, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Speaking in a news conference after the end of talks, head of Russian delegation and Russian president's Special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said future negotiations would designate the locations of Turkish, Russian and Iranian forces to be deployed in the de-escalation zone.

"If they apply through diplomatic channels, China, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon will also be invited to next meetings as observers," Lavrentiev added.

Meanwhile, one of speakers of the opposition, Ayman Asimi, expressed his concerns about the Iranian-supported militia located in Aleppo's south.

In a news conference, Asimi said those militias can cause the collapse of Astana agreement.

Idlib is the main opposition-held area in Syria. The borders of three other zones across the country were agreed earlier.

Observers

The UN’s special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, and delegates from Jordan and the U.S. attended as observers. According to the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry, Qatar also participated for the first time as an observer.

Reading a closing declaration, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said the guarantor countries agreed on the establishment of de-escalation zones in the eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, certain regions in northern Homs, parts of southern Syria, as well as the province of Idlib, including sections of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama.

Turkish, Russian and Iranian observers will be deployed at checkpoints and observation posts to be established, according a written statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

The primary task of observers will be to prevent conflicts between the regime and the opposition and to monitor possible violations of the ceasefire, the foreign ministry said.

A Joint Coordination Center to be set up between Turkey, Russia and Iran will orchestrate observer forces, it added.

The statement also said Turkey had played a "decisive role" in finding consensus among the parties and "is determined to build upon the momentum achieved thanks to the Astana meetings through the strong support it extends to the political transition process in Syria which the Geneva talks aim for advancing".

Abdrakhmanov said the de-escalation zones were being established as a six-month interim measure and stated they could be extended depending on the agreement of the guarantors.

The Kazakh minister stressed that the parties would continue to fight against terrorist organizations associated with Daesh and al-Qaeda. He also announced that a seventh Astana meeting will be held in October.

Turkey, which supports some opposition groups, and Russia and Iran, which back Bashar al-Assad’s regime, have been holding talks in Kazakhstan since January.

They are seeking to implement lasting cease-fires in areas where fighting has been heaviest between opposition forces and pro-Assad troops.

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