UN Syria envoy hails efforts at Astana meeting

By Selen Temizer

ASTANA (AA) – The UN Syria envoy on Thursday hailed the work done at the Astana meeting by the three guarantors — Iran, Russia and Turkey — to ensure that “the Idlib de-escalation arrangements are sustained.”

In a statement, Staffan de Mistura recognized "the initial, although still very limited, movement on the issue of detainees.”

However, Mistura lamented that the three Sochi co-conveners “produced no tangible results in overcoming the 10-month stalemate on the composition of the constitutional committee.”

He said the last Astana meeting of 2018 was "a missed opportunity to accelerate the establishment of a credible, balanced and inclusive, Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated constitutional committee.”

The UN special envoy pointed out that the three guarantor countries committed to intensify their efforts to facilitate further efforts next week.

According to the statement, Mistura would continue working for the establishment of a constitutional committee before Dec. 31

On Oct. 17, Staffan de Mistura announced that he will leave his post at the end of November citing "personal reasons."

Veteran Norwegian diplomat Geir O. Pedersen has been named as his successor.

The 11th round of Syria peace talks in the Astana format concluded on Thursday with a decision to step up joint efforts to prevent violations of the cease-fire in Idlib.

– Idlib deal

The first meeting in the Astana format for reaching a cease-fire in Syria was held in January 2017.

Nine meetings were held in Astana, while the 10th was held in Sochi, Russia this July.

After a Sept. 17 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.