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Russia, Turkey, Iran meet to discuss Syria conflict

These are the first Astana talks since 2019 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2021

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Delegations from Russia, Turkey, and Iran are meeting in Sochi to discuss the Syria Constitutional Committee and the ceasefire in rebel-held Idlib province.
Officials from Russia, Turkey, and Iran will meet today in the Russian city of Sochi, as part of the Astana peace process, which seeks to find a solution to the conflict in Syria

The three countries, which are the guarantors of the Astana process, will hold two days of meetings and discuss a number of key issues, including attempts to revive UN-backed Syrian Constitutional Committee talks between the regime and the opposition, which aim to draft a new constitution for Syria.

Delegations from the Syrian regime and opposition will also attend the Astana talks.

The meeting will mark the first time that the Astana process countries have met since December 2019. Previously scheduled meetings were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The first day of talks will involve bilateral and trilateral consultations, which will be followed by a plenary session on Wednesday. 

The Syrian regime will be represented by deputy foreign minister Ayman Sousan while Ankara will be represented by Selcuk Unal, the Turkish foreign ministry’s director for Syria.

The Iranian delegation will be led by Ali Asghar Haji, senior assistant to the foreign minister while the Russian delegation will be headed by special presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev.

The UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen will also attend, and it has been announced that he will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow, following the talks. 

Among the topics to be discussed are the continuing tensions in Idlib. 

Russia and Turkey are overseeing a ceasefire in Idlib, the last area of Syria held by opposition forces. The ceasefire has frequently been violated by the Syrian regime and Russian forces.

Other opposition-held areas of Syria which were nominally guaranteed as "de-escalation" areas by the Astana process in 2017 have been overrun by the regime with Russian support.

The fifth round of the UN-brokered Constitutional Committee talks on Syria's constitution between the regime and the opposition failed to make any progress when they ended on 29 January.  

Read also: Syria's collapsing economy threatens Assad's rule

Following the talks, Tareq Al-Kurdi, a Constitutional Committee member from the opposition's delegation, held the Syrian regime responsible for their failure.

“The Syrian regime still refuses to truly engage in the work of the committee concerned with discussing constitutional principles, and is trying to persist with quarrels and disputes, away from the technical work of drafting the constitution,” said Al-Kurdi.

The Astana talks were launched as an alternative to the UN-backed Geneva peace process between the regime and opposition in January 2017.

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