Turkey, Russia and Iran are expected to gather on Tuesday for the 14th meeting of the Astana peace process in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan.
Officials from the three guarantor countries of the Astana process will discuss and evaluate the latest developments in Syria at the meeting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal are expected to attend. They will mainly focus on the latest situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone and developments in the works of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.
The Astana meeting was initiated by Turkey, Iran and Russia to bring the warring sides together and find a permanent solution for the eight-year Syrian civil war. The main agenda of the process has focused on the constitutional process, political transition, security and resettlement. The first meeting of the Astana process was in Turkey in January 2017 to facilitate U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.
The constitutional committee, including representatives from the opposition, the regime and guarantor countries, is 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 functioning of the committee, however, faces strong resistance from the Bashar Assad regime.
The 150-member committee includes a 50-member delegation from the regime and a 50-member delegation from the opposition. The Syrian regime has objected to the 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women.
As the committee began its work on Nov. 20 in Geneva with U.N. facilitation to prepare and draft for popular approval of constitutional reforms paving the way for a political settlement in Syria, the Assad regime delegation left on the first day of the second round of talks.
During the previous rounds of Astana talks, the three countries agreed on several topics and implemented them. They decided to strengthen the mechanism established to ensure monitoring of the implementation of the cease-fire in Syria and to create tension zones where the conflict is most intense between the opposition and regime forces.
A joint working group formed by the Astana trio and the U.N. would investigate the fate of missing people and the release of those who have been detained. It has already overseen several detainee swap deals.
In October 2018, the leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany came together in a quadruple summit in Istanbul, hoping to lay the groundwork for eventual peace in a country devastated by years of war.
In a final statement, leaders rejected separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, also highlighting the need to create conditions throughout the country for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their original places of residence in Syria and that the returnees need security from armed conflict, political persecution or arbitrary arrests.
Turkey and Russia also agreed last year to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Aybek Smadiyarov said yesterday that all parties confirmed their participation in the meeting and started to come to the city.
He added that U.N. Special Representative for Syria Geir Pedersen will also attend the meeting.
In a speech two weeks ago, Smadiyarov said the meeting will discuss Syria's confidence-building measures on Dec. 10-11.
At the 14th meeting of the guarantors on Syria, measures including the release of prisoners, the search for losses and the activation of comprehensive humanitarian aid will be discussed, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Aybek Smadiyarov said guarantor countries Turkey, Russia and Iran will participate in the meeting along with the Syrian government and its military opposition delegations.
Smadiyarov added that the U.N., Jordanian, Lebanese and Iraqi delegations will observe the meeting.
"The agenda of the meeting will include intensifying humanitarian assistance to Syria, helping the return of refugees to their homes and advancing the political process with the launch of the constitutional committee," he said.