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Astana Talks on Syria End with Joint Russian-Turkish-Iranian Declaration

Jan. 24, 2017 (EIRNS)—The intra-Syrian talks sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey and hosted by Kazakhstan, ended today with a joint statement issued by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. The three governments, acting as guarantors of the process,

"Reaffirm their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, non-sectarian and democratic State, as confirmed by the UN Security Council."

They also will seek the consolidation of the ceasefire initially agreed to by the three powers on Dec. 29, 2016, which was subsequently endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2336. They also agreed

"to establish a trilateral mechanism to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire, prevent any provocations and determine all modalities of the ceasefire,"

and they "Reiterate their determination to fight jointly against ISIL/DAESH and Al-Nusra and to separate from them armed opposition groups."

Alexander Lavrentiev, the chief of the Russian delegation in Astana, reported, after the meeting closed, that the negotiations with the armed opposition groups recognized the importance of the launch of the political process in Syria and the need to start elaborating on a new constitution, which must be adopted through the will of the Syrian people.

"We’ll hope that the armed Syrian opposition will be more active in this direction," Lavrentiev said, reports TASS. "We’ll be trying to help it in that."

He reported, in fact, that the Russian government has transferred to the opposition groups a draft constitution intended as a means to jump-start the political process.

"We have done this solely because we want to expedite this process and give it an additional and stimulating impetus, without interfering in the very process of the examination and the adoption of the country’s fundamental law,"

Lavrentiev said. "We believe that this process should be led by the Syrian people itself," he said.

As for the trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire, Lavrentiev reported that military exerpts from all three countries have agreed to set up the trilateral group in Astana, which will begin functioning in early February.

Statements made by the two Syrian sides after the meeting concluded, indicate that, while progress was definitely made, there is still much work ahead before a political settlement in Syria is achieved. Bashr al Jaafari, Syria’s UN representative and the leader of the government delegation in Astana, said that the meeting succeeded in achieving the goal of consolidating the cessation of hostilities for a specific period of time, which would pave the way for dialogue among the Syrians, reports SANA. He said that at the same time, "it was distressful" to sit in the same room

"with other Syrians that are linked to foreign agendas and are working for foreign authorities, and some of them are committed to terrorist groups."

However, he went on, "no matter the cost, we would do that to save our state and our people." Jaafari also charged that the Turkish role in the talks was a negative one. "Turkey says one thing and does another," Jaafarai said, according to Sputnik.

Mohammad Alloush, the head of the opposition delegation, in turn, reports Reuters, said he had reservations about the text which he claimed legitimized Iran’s "bloodletting" in Syria and did not address the role of Shi’ite militias fighting rebels.