The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have agreed on accelerating the process of forming a Syrian Constitutional Committee to contribute to the peace process.
A written statement by the ministry said that representatives from the guarantor countries of the Astana Process - Turkey, Russia and Iran - came together in Moscow to discuss the Syrian peace efforts.
In the meeting, senior officials of the three countries decided to expedite the process of forming a constitutional committee according to the Security Council Resolution 2254, in coordination with United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
The meeting was attended by Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Verchinen, Russian President's Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, and the senior assistant to Iranian Foreign Minister, Hussein Gabri. Apart from the formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, the decisions made at the Sochi Conference were also discussed.
Turkey and Russia struck a deal in Sochi on Sept. 17 to ward off a military offensive by the Bashar Assad regime on Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in Syria, and avoid a potential humanitarian crisis.
The deal set up a 15 to 20-kilometer-long demilitarized zone that was supposed to be evacuated of all heavy weapons. 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 ward off renewed fighting.
The guarantor states' meeting also coincided with the de Mistura's visit to Damascus.
The U.N. envoy is expected to select 50 members for the Syrian Constitutional Committee by the end of this month, as his tenure as U.N. special envoy to Syria comes to an end at the end of November.
Last January, the final report of the Sochi conference concluded with the idea of formation of a constitutional committee. The committee's mission is designated as to formulate a constitutional reform consisted of the regime and opposition proposals. Meanwhile, the head of the Syrian opposition's negotiating team was expected to meet Russia's top diplomat on Friday in Moscow in preparation for peace talks in Istanbul this weekend.
In an effort to contribute to the efforts to end the ongoing Syrian conflict, Turkey, Iran and Russia launched a process in the Kazakh capital Astana. Last year, the three guarantor countries agreed in Astana to establish de-escalation zones in the northern province of Idlib and parts of neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo. Turkey, Russia and Iran argue the Astana process is not an alternative but a complementary effort to the United Nations-sponsored Geneva peace talks.
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