Iran seals its status as truce guarantor in Syria

March 15, 2017 - 21:0

TEHRAN - Iran has officially become a country guaranteeing the truce in Syria, along with Russia and Turkey, Head of the Russian delegation and Presidential Envoy for Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentyev said on Wednesday in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

“Very importantly, today’s consultations have resulted in the Iranian delegation’s decision to officially sign a document on joining the agreement in the form of a guarantor country,” the envoy said. 

The next expert consultations on the Syrian peace talks will be held in Tehran in April, according to Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov. The fourth round of Astana-hosted peace talks is scheduled for May 3-4. 

According to Lavrentyev, there is no threat of disruption of the intra-Syrian negotiations in Astana. 

“The Astana process continues and is moving forwards. I would not talk about any threat of derailing the talks,” he emphasized. “We have a lot of work to do. There are many issues concerning the ceasefire and all other issues related to the Syrian settlement, which we need to discuss. Naturally, we will do that,” he said. 

Map separating rebels from terrorists

At the third Astana talks of March 14-15, the three guarantors have worked on a map that separates Syrian opposition from terrorist groups. According to the head of the Russian delegation, the separation issue is particularly important. 

“The work on it has been in progress for quite a long time aready,” the Russian diplomat noted. “For six months, we have been trying to separate the moderate opposition from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, particularly cooperating with the United States. Only after agreements were signed on December 29, 2016, we managed to facilitate the work.”

The diplomat said that both Turkey and Iran have provided detailed information and that now the maps are combined that indicate the areas controlled by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. According to Lavrentyev, Jordan, whose representatives attended the meeting as observers, has been very helpful in this matter, providing additional information. 

“This work is highly important as it may help us ensure security in the regions controlled by the moderate opposition,’ the Russian diplomat added. “We have also been trying to persuade the Syrian armed opposition to provide us assistance in defining areas controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra”. 

Plan for prisoner swap
The participants in the international meeting in Astana have also formulated proposals on exchanging prisoners in Syria, Kamaldinov stated. 

“The talks in Astana have resulted in the signing of a deal on setting up a group for monitoring ceasefire, composed of Iran, Russia and Turkey, which will be subordinated to the UN, and also proposals on exchanging prisoners were outlined,” he said.

The representatives of the Syrian ceasefire guarantor-states have also discussed a range of other issues, including “the implementation of military agreements reached earlier at the Astana platform, and considered the ways of enhancing trilateral joint steps on settling the Syrian crisis,” according to Kamaldinov. 

Syria’s new Constitution
Russia’s delegation has proposed a project of setting up a constitutional commission to draft Syria’s new Constitution, Lavrentyev said on Tuesday. 

“Now we have proposed a project for discussion and consideration to set up a constitutional commission to deal with drafting the Constitution. I would like to emphasize that this does not mean that we’re imposing a specific solution of this issue,” Lavrentyev stressed. 

The draft document concerning the constitutional commission has been handed over to the Syrian government for consideration, according to the Russian envoy. 

The Syrian government negotiator Bashar al Ja-afari said on Wednesday his delegation had not yet discussed a constitutional commission for the war-torn state during the latest talks in Astana. 

Speaking in the Kazakh capital, Ja-afari said the only document the Syrian government delegation had discussed with Russia was related to de-mining cultural heritage sites.

“Work on it is under way. Something will be absolutely unacceptable for them while something, as I believe, will be taken into account and something will be used in the course of the Geneva talks whose new round will open on March 23,” the head of the Russian delegation said.

The Syrian armed opposition has not yet looked at Russia’s draft of the Syrian constitution, however the issue of establishing a constitutional commission is being discussed now. In general, several documents are considered at talks on Syria in Astana, according to Lavrentyev. 

Syrian opposition to meet Russia, Iran and Turkey on March 16
The Syrian armed opposition will hold a meeting with the three truce guarantors, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Anuar Zhainakov, said on Wednesday. 

Previously, the Syrian opposition had announced that it had decided to boycott the talks, blaming what they calld Russia’s unwillingness to end air strikes against civilians in rebel-held areas and its failure to put pressure on the Syrian army to abide by a widely violated ceasefire. 

“As for the participation of armed opposition representatives in the talks, representatives of the Southern and Northern fronts are expected to arrive tonight,” he said. “Tomorrow they will hold consultations with experst from the casefire guarantor countries on compliance with the cessation of hostilities.”

Information on the composition of the opposition delegation will be available later and the talks will continue on Thursday March 16, as confirmed by Zhainakov. However, there is no information yet on participation of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish delegations on March 16.

The international meeting in Astana on the settlement in Syria began on March 14. Delegations from Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as from the UN, the U.S. and Jordan are working in the capital of Kazakhstan. 

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