Tehran, Damascus Step Up Coordination on Intra-Syria Peace Talks

Tehran, Damascus Step Up Coordination on Intra-Syria Peace Talks Tehran, Damascus Step Up Coordination on Intra-Syria Peace Talks

Senior Iranian and Syrian diplomats stressed the importance of boosting coordination and consultations ahead of the planned intra-Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari held a telephone conversation with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Saturday, Press TV reported.

The two diplomats exchanged views about the latest developments prior to the Astana negotiations between the representatives of the Damascus government and foreign-sponsored opposition groups in Astana on January 23. Ansari and Mekdad stressed that Tehran and Damascus should help find a political solution to the Syria crisis.

The Iranian diplomat on Friday held separate meetings in Moscow with the Russian deputy foreign minister and special presidential envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Unal Cevikoz. The two sides discussed various aspects of the Astana peace talks.

The negotiations, which exclude the self-styled Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist groups, will be monitored by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The Astana talks would be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on December 31.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on January 8 that he was "optimistic" about the upcoming peace negotiations in Astana and expressed his readiness to negotiate with the armed opposition groups.

Iran and Russia support the Syrian government and have been assisting Damascus in its fight against terrorism. Russia has been carrying out airstrikes on the positions of IS and other terrorist groups at Syria's official request since September 30, 2015, while Iran has been providing military advisory assistance to the Arab country.

On August 24, the Turkish air force and special ground forces kicked off operation Euphrates Shield inside Syria in a declared bid to support the Free Syrian Army militants and rid the border area of IS terrorists and fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units and Democratic Union Party. The offensive was launched in coordination with the US-led military coalition, which has purportedly been fighting IS extremists since 2014.

The incursion was the first major Turkish military intervention in Syria, which drew strong condemnation from the Syrian government for violating the Arab country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy since past six years. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syrian crisis until then. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.


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