By Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) – The 14th round of Syria peace talks discussed developments east of Euphrates River and in Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
“The fourteenth round of the high-level meetings on Syria was held on 10-11 December 2019 in Nur-Sultan. Developments on the ground, particularly on the east of the Euphrates and in Idlib as well as the current state of affairs in the political process were discussed in the meeting,” the ministry said in a statement.
It noted that the parties rejected any separatist agendas posing a threat to political unity, territorial integrity of Syria as well as to national security of the neighboring countries.
“They underscored objection to all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives,” it added.
Opposing the illegal seizure and transfer of oil revenues in the region, the parties emphasized the importance of full implementation of Turkey-Russia deal signed on Oct. 22 to stabilize the situation east of the Euphrates.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria, east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
On Oct. 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists will pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with northern Syria, and security forces from Turkey and Russia will conduct joint patrols 10 km (6.2 miles) from the Turkish border.
“The parties have reiterated their commitment in re-establishing calm in [northwestern] Idlib and in preserving the de-escalation status of the area,” the ministry said, adding that they were also concerned for the civilian casualties by the recently increased attacks in the area.
“They agreed to intensify efforts in order to ensure the security of civilians and the military personnel of the guarantor states. Turkey has expressed concern for regime’s targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure and has stressed its expectation that these attacks must cease immediately,” it added.
– Syrian Constitutional Committee
Expressing satisfaction on the convening of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, the parties reiterated continued support for its sustainability.
The Syrian Constitutional Committee — comprising opposition, civil society, and regime members — began its work on Nov. 20 in Geneva with the UN facilitation.
The committee is mandated within the context of a UN-facilitated Geneva process, to prepare and draft for popular approval of constitutional reforms paving the way for a political settlement in Syria.
On Nov. 25, the Assad regime delegation left the talks on the first day of the second round.
“Turkey has confirmed its support to the ongoing efforts to further the political process, in close coordination with the Syrian opposition and the United Nations. Turkey underscored the expectation from the Astana guarantors to ensure constructive stance by the regime for the functioning of the Constitutional Committee in accordance with its mandate agreed by the Syrian parties,” the ministry said.
It added that the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons also gathered on the sidelines of the meeting and that Turkey expected respect for the Working Group’s work in future operations.
– Idlib deal
The first meeting in the Astana format for reaching a cease-fire in Syria was held in January 2017.
After a Sept. 17, 2018 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.
Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.
On Oct. 10, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups had completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Idlib demilitarized zone.
Despite the cease-fire agreement, the Assad regime and its allies have continued their low-intensity attacks on Idlib’s de-escalation zone.
The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.