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Fifth Astana Meeting on Syrian Ceasefire Again Took Up Questions of the De-Escalation Zones; Still No Agreement

July 5, 2017 (EIRNS)—The fifth meeting on the Syrian ceasefire, held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on July 4 and 5, ended today, with a meeting of the Russian-Turkey-Iran working group expected in Tehran at the beginning of August, in order to hash out the remaining disagreements.

There was still no agreement completed in Astana on implementing three de-escalation zones, already discussed at the previous meeting.

"We have not been able to agree on setting up the de-escalation zones. Nevertheless, that’s our objective, and we will seek to achieve it in the immediate future,"

said Alexnader Lavrentiev, head of the Russian delegation at the talks on Syria in Astana and Russian Presidential Envoy for the Syrian Settlement. "Without making a decision on establishing these zones," he said, "we will be unable to approve the package of documents that would ensure the normal operation of these de-escalation zones."

Earlier reports had indicated that agreements had been reached on two of the zones, Eastern Ghouta and north of Homs, but that no agreement had been reached on Idlib province. Lavrentiev also indicated that agreement on a fourth zone in the south would have to be approved by the United States and Jordan, as those two countries support opposition groups in that part of Syria.

Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN and leader of the Syrian government delegation to Astana, attributed the failure of the meeting to reach a final agreement on "counter-efforts" of the Turkish side, reports SANA.

"The Turkish attitude, since the start of the track of Astana process, has been negative, and this negativity has led to modest results in this round, especially with regard to the issues related to the de-escalation zones,"

said al-Jaafari, adding that the Turkish side opposed reaching details considering those zones and practiced a blackmail policy in this regard.

"I can only say that the Turkish side did everything in its power to hinder reaching positive results that concern the interests of the Syrian people,"

he added.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, attributed the failure of the meeting to reach an agreement to uncertainties surrounding the anticipated July 8 meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The unstable position of the negotiators in Astana is due to the fact that everyone is waiting for the results of the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Hamburg,"

Dzhabarov told Sputnik. He stressed that, as already announced, Putin and Trump would discuss the issue of Syrian settlement, and that there may be new agreements between Russia and the United States that the participants of the Astana talks are waiting for. "At the next stage of the talks in Astana in August, progress can be more noticeable," he added.