Officials from Turkey, Russia, and Iran met yesterday in the newly renamed Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, previously called Astana, to discuss technical issues around the ongoing talks between the three nations to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.
Yesterday's discussions were expected to focus on issues including the establishment of a committee tasked with drafting a new Syrian constitution, efforts to reduce tensions around Idlib, the return of refugees and post-war reconstruction.
Turkey's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sedat Önal, Russian presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and Iran's Ali Asghar Haji co-chaired the meeting.
Turkey, Russia, and Iran serve as guarantor states in the Astana peace process.
On the agenda for the technical talks is the completion of the work on establishing of a constitutional committee and the participation of new observer states to the meeting process. The meeting with also see the participation of new observer states. Jordanian officials, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees and representatives of the International Red Cross will also take part in the meeting as observers.
The first meeting of the Astana process was held in Turkey in January 2017 to bring all warring parties in the Syrian conflict to the table to facilitate U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. The Astana talks support the establishment of the U.N.-backed constitutional committee in Syria as a way to find a political solution. The planned constitutional committee, including representatives from the opposition, regime and guarantor countries, will be tasked with writing and establishing Syria's post-war constitution, which is seen as a stepping-stone to elections in the war-torn country.
The 11th round of the talks in the Astana format concluded in December with a decision to step up joint efforts to prevent violations of the cease-fire in Idlib.
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 cease-fire 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.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.