Kazakh capital hosts latest round of Astana Process talks on Syria

NUR-SULTAN – The latest round of the Syrian talks, hosted Dec. 10-11 in Nur-Sultan, focused on the recent escalation of violence in Idlib in north-western Syria, emphasised the need to increase humanitarian assistance and ensure safe return of refugees and internally displaced people to their original place of residence in Syria.

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The talks organised in the Kazakh capital since January 2017 and brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey, are aimed at ending the conflict now in its ninth year. 

In their joint statement, the three guarantor states emphasised the need to establish “calm on the ground” and fully commit to all agreements on Idlib, including a ceasefire agreement reached by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi Sept. 17, 2018. 

Idlib, home to nearly four million people, remains the last remaining stronghold of the Syrian opposition forces. 

Iran, Russia and Turkey expressed their concern over the “increased presence and terrorist activity of ‘Hayat Tahrir al Sham’ and other affiliated terrorist groups as designated by the United Nations Security Council that pose threat to civilians inside and outside the de-escalation area.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey as guarantors of the Astana format reaffirmed in this regard the determination to continue cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council,” read the statement. 

The sides welcomed the signing of a memorandum agreed by Putin and Erdogan Oct. 29, under which the countries will carry out joint patrol of the Syrian territories along Syria-Turkey’s border in an effort to stabilise the situation in the area following the launch of Turkey’s cross-border operation Oct. 9

The states also “rejected in this regard all attempts to create new realities on the ground, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives, under the pretext of combating terrorism, and expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as threatening the national security of neighbouring countries.”

They condemned Israel’s continuing military attacks in Syria that, as the statement read, were in violation of the international law and international humanitarian law and undermined the sovereignty of Syria and neighbouring countries.

Humanitarian assistance to all Syrians should be increased, the guarantor states said in their statement. 

They called on the international community and the relevant UN agencies to develop early recovery projects, including restoration of infrastructure, water and power supply facilities, schools and hospitals severely damaged and destroyed by heavy bombardment. 

It is also important, they noted, to ensure safe and voluntary return of refuges and internally displaced people to their original place of residence in Syrian. The sides expressed readiness to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other specialised international agencies in this effort. 

The next round is expected to take place in March 2020 in Nur-Sultan.

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