Preparations for Astana Talks Underway

Preparations for Astana Talks UnderwayPreparations for Astana Talks Underway

A two-day preparatory meeting for the fourth round of Astana talks on Syria, scheduled for May 3-4, opened in Tehran on Tuesday.

The closed-door meeting was attended by experts from Iran, Russia and Turkey, the three guarantors of a December 30 nationwide ceasefire in Syria, and a UN representative as observer, ISNA reported.

Since 2011, Syria has been the scene of a battle between its army and foreign-backed militants struggling to bring down the government, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a press briefing on Monday that the meeting, like previous expert-level discussions, will explore ways of strengthening the ceasefire.

The history of trilateral cooperation on Syria goes back to a deal on evacuation of militants from Aleppo in mid-December, following which Syrian troops gained a major victory by retaking the second biggest Syrian city.

On December 20, the three sides' foreign ministers sat down for talks in Moscow where they agreed on principles of reaching a Syrian settlement.

Then they brokered the ceasefire, which excluded the self-styled Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra (recently rebranded to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) terrorist groups.

It prepared the ground for the first Astana talks on January 23-24 between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

The trio announced at the end of the first Astana talks that they have agreed on the establishment of a trilateral mechanism to monitor any violations of the current ceasefire in Syria and ensure its survival.

The second Astana talks were held on February 15-16 and the third on March 14-15.

Representatives of the United States and later Jordan have also been present in the talks.

The Astana format is separate from intermittent UN-brokered Geneva meetings on Syria settlement, the last round of which was held in March.


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