The Astana talks are at risk as the Bashar Assad regime escalates its attacks on Idlib in Syria's northwestern Idlib de-escalation zone, according to the opposition.
"The regime's deliberate attacks on civilians will undermine political solution efforts. These attacks will lead to new conflicts in the future. Russia, the guarantor country of the regime, is responsible for this situation," said the written statement issued yesterday by the military delegation representing the Syrian opposition in Astana meetings. Pointing out that the Sochi deal is continually being violated despite six months having passed since it was signed, the delegation said that Russia, Iran, and the regime persist on targeting civilians in Idlib. The delegation also regarded the idleness of the international community in the face of attacks against civilians as "shameful."
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in September 2018, following their talks in Sochi, to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib to decrease tension and prevent a new conflict in the province. According to the 10-article memorandum signed between Ankara and Moscow during the meeting, the Idlib de-escalation area will be preserved, and Turkish observation posts will be fortified and continue to function. Russia will also take all necessary measures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib are avoided, and the existing status quo is maintained. Yet, regime forces backed by Russia and Iran have been intensifying their attacks on the city for some time now, despite the Sochi deal. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the spokesperson for the military delegation, Aymen al-Asimi, underlined that the written statement reflects the official stance of the opposition. "These attacks are the preview of the future conflicts to come, endangering the solution process," he added.
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 part 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.
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