Astana Talks on Syria Conclude With Modest Results


The latest round of diplomatic talks for settling the Syria crisis ended in the Kazakh city of Astana on Wednesday, with reports suggesting that participants have only reached partial agreement on de-escalation zones in the Arab country.
The plenary and final session of the fifth round of Syria peace talks, brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey, was held in the Kazakh capital on Wednesday evening, Tasnim News Agency reported.
Following several rounds of expert-level meetings over the past few days, the final session was attended by diplomatic delegations from Iran, Russia and Turkey, as well as observers in the peace talks. The previous round of Astana talks in May had produced a memorandum of understanding on de-escalation zones in Syria, sharply reducing fighting in the country.
The agreement—initiated by Iran, Russia and Turkey—also envisages the creation of conditions for the delivery of medical assistance, restoration of damaged infrastructure and return of displaced civilians to their homes.
According to a joint statement after the Wednesday meeting, the three states formed a working group to finalize an agreement on creating de-escalation zones in Syria.
Sputnik quoted a source at the talks as saying that the parties reached an agreement on only two out of the four de-escalation zones, but will adopt the whole package of documents related to the issue in the next round of negotiations.
“An agreement has been reached on two zones already, on Eastern Ghouta and north of Homs. There is still no agreement on Idlib,” the source said.

  Turkey’s Differing View
“The documents are almost ready, but one of the parties wishes to adopt them only as a package of documents. There are seven and they define the mandate [of the monitoring forces], the right to use guns, etc. That is why it has been decided that next week the joint working group will meet in Tehran to reach a final agreement on all these documents, including the one on detainees. They will be signed during the next round of Astana talks,” the source added.
According to the source, Turkey had a position different from that of Syria and Iran on the issue of detainees’ release. In the meantime, Al Jazeera quoted Russia’s representative, Alexander Lavrentiev, as saying that documents outlining how the four zones should work “need finalizing” despite being “essentially agreed” between the three key mediators.
Lavrentiev noted that there had been no definitive agreement over the contentious issue of “which specific forces” would police the zones.
The parties have agreed to convene the sixth round of Astana talks in the last week of August. The next conference will be preceded by expert-level meetings, scheduled for on August 1-2 in Tehran.


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