17th round of Astana talks on Syria kick off in Kazakhstan

2-day talks to focus on current situation in Syria, delivery of humanitarian aid, exchange of prisoners.

17th round of Astana talks on Syria kick off in Kazakhstan

The 17th round of Astana talks on Syria kicked off in Kazakhstan on Tuesday with the attendance of representatives of the guarantor countries.

The bilateral and tripartite meetings of the parties participating in the talks -- Turkey, Russia, and Iran –- started in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan at 8 a.m. Turkish time (0500GMT).

The two-day talks focus on confidence-building measures such as the current situation in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian aid, the resumption of the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, the exchange of prisoners, the release of hostages, and the search for missing persons.

Ambassador Selcuk Unal, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's director-general responsible for Syria, is representing Ankara at the meetings.

Russia is represented by Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and Iran by Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior advisor to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Syrian regime joined the meeting with a delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Susan and the opposition with a delegation headed by Ahmad Tuma.

Also taking part in the meetings, which are being attended by UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, are Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan -- the neighboring countries of Syria -- with observer status.

The Turkish delegation first met with the UN Special Delegation to Syria within the scope of the talks.

Russia holds productive meeting with Syrian delegation

The Russian delegation will primarily focus on the situation on the ground and the provision of a cease-fire, Lavrentiev told reporters before the meeting.

Underlining that Daesh/ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria have recently started to become active again, he said: "We will prioritize this issue in our meetings with our Turkish and Iranian partners."

He also highlighted the importance of advancing the political process in Syria to overcome the refugee problem, the release of detainees, and the humanitarian crisis.

"The work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee will also be one of the most important agenda items of the talks. We had a productive meeting with the Syrian delegation (regime) on this issue," he said.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters with unexpected ferocity.

The Astana peace process to end the conflict was launched in January 2017 at the initiative of Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Meetings of Astana guarantors also contribute to the advancement of the UN-led diplomatic process in Geneva.

Hüseyin Demir

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