Astana parties agree to reject separatist agendas

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 29.11.2018 23:53
Updated 30.11.2018 08:00

Turkey, Russia and Iran, the three guarantors of the Astana process, have stressed their commitment to Syria's territorial integrity and rejected separatist agendas targeting the country's sovereignty.

The 11th round of Astana talks held over the past two days addressed issues stemming from the ongoing Syrian civil war.

"The participants rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground, under the pretext of combating terrorism, and expressed their determination to challenge separatist agendas aimed at undermining Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the national security of neighboring countries," read a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement yesterday.

The Astana meeting discussed the ongoing efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict as well as developments on the ground. Turkey was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal at the meeting.

The participants also reaffirmed their common determination to intensify consultations and finalize the establishment of the constitutional committee as soon as possible.

Russia, Iran and Turkey launched the Astana peace process in the Kazakh capital of Astana in January 2017 as a complementary part of the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. It brought all warring parties in the Syrian conflict to the table to find a political solution.

Participants welcomed the mutual and simultaneous release of several persons, detained by opposition groups and the regime, on Nov. 24, as a pilot project of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons.

In the joint statement following the 11th round of talks, it was stressed that the parties "examined in details the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area and reaffirmed their determination to fully implement the Memorandum on the Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib de-escalation Area from Sept. 17, 2018.""In this regard, they expressed their concern with the ongoing violations of the cease-fire regime and declared that, as guarantors of the ceasefire regime, they would step up their efforts to ensure observations, including by enhancing work of the Joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish Coordination Center," the statement added.

The Sochi agreement was reached on Sept. 17 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The deal established a cease-fire in the Idlib region, the last opposition stronghold in Syria, on the condition that heavy arms and extremist groups would withdraw from the region.

Prior to the agreement, the Assad regime was signaling an expansive military operation in Idlib, sparking fears in the international community of a new humanitarian crisis.

As there have been some violations of the Sochi deal, Turkey called on all parties to restore calm and warned against provocations.

In a recent move, warplanes struck opposition territory in northwestern Syria on Sunday for the first time since Turkey and Russia agreed to create a buffer zone in the province of Idlib in September, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The U.K.-based monitoring group said that the Assad regime ally Russia "likely" carried out the airstrikes that hit suburbs west of Aleppo city, near Idlib.

Commenting on the developments Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday that there have been reciprocal accusations and he underscored, "We should not be provoked."

Since the Sochi agreement in September, 32 civilians have lost their lives in regime attacks, while many others have been injured.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the 12th round of the high-level meetings on Syria would be held in February 2019 in Astana

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