Diplomats Arrive in Astana for Syria Peace Talks

Diplomats Arrive in Astana  for Syria Peace Talks Diplomats Arrive in Astana  for Syria Peace Talks

A delegation of Iranian diplomats arrived in the Kazakh capital Astana on Saturday, two days ahead of the first face-to-face talks between the Syrian government and opposition in nearly six years of conflict.

Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari heads the delegation, IRIB News reported.

Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian Army's anti-terror drive, and Turkey, which backed militants opposed to the Syrian government, will oversee the talks.

The Astana talks are to be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria mediated by the three countries, which took effect at midnight of December 30 and was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on December 31.

The truce came after a deal brokered by the trio to evacuate militants from Aleppo late last month, which handed the Syrian troops a major victory in liberating the second biggest Syrian city, and a December 20 meeting between the foreign ministers of the three countries in Moscow, in which they agreed on principles any Syria crisis settlement should adhere to.

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Speaking upon arrival in Astana, Ansari said the meeting is aimed at consolidating the ceasefire and paving the way for ending the crisis, while continuing the campaign against terrorism and extremism in Syria.

Ansari said his duty is to help prepare the ground for the Syrian nation to decide their destiny.

"The Islamic Republic's main belief is that no foreign player is entitled to make decisions on behalf of the Syrian nation," he said.

The high-ranking diplomat said Iran's efforts will be within the framework of a four-point peace plan Tehran proposed in 2014, which is based on democracy and guarantees territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Syria.

The Astana talks mark the first time since the beginning of the conflict when the US has not been at the center of diplomacy on Syria. The opposition delegation, which mainly comprises Turkey-backed militant groups, was expected to depart for Astana on Saturday. Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, leads the Syrian government's team.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is also expected to head to Astana leading a delegation.

Russia has described Astana talks as a "supplement" to UN-hosted negotiations in Geneva, a new round of which is to be held on February 8. Ansari said Iran always believed that the crisis has no military settlement and "its continuation will only lead to the death of more Syrians and the elimination of a Muslim country's capabilities".

"We hope this meeting will be a milestone in the resolution of the crisis," he said. Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since 2011, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced.

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