The eighth round of talks on the Syrian crisis was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 21-22.
The eighth round of talks on the Syrian crisis was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 21-22.

Trio Plans Sochi Confab to Push for Syria Settlement

Peace guarantor states agreed to establish a working group on the release of detainees and cooperate on mine clearance in the conflict-torn Syria

Trio Plans Sochi Confab to Push for Syria Settlement

Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed to bring to the negotiating table the Syrian government and opposition groups late next month, accelerating the peace process for ending the worst manmade calamity of the 21st century.
The agreement was announced on Friday after the latest round of reconciliation talks on the Syrian conflict, held in the Kazakh capital Astana in the presence of negotiators from the trio, Syria and opposition groups, as well as observers from the UN, the US and Jordan.
The decision came amid increased hopes for a dialogue-based solution to the lingering conflict, following the collapse of the self-proclaimed "caliphate" of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group last month.
After two days of diplomatic talks, the trio agreed to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian city of Sochi on January 29-30.
Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, the three guarantors of the Syria peace process, will meet in Sochi on January 19-20 to prepare for the congress, according to a joint statement released on Friday.
The trio also decided on, but did not identify, the congress participants who will outline their own vision of Syria's future on behalf of various opposition groups residing inside and outside Syria.
Russian Special Presidential Envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, who led the Russian negotiating team, told reporters on Friday that the congress should lay the basis for the work on the new constitution of Syria.
The Syrian government has already confirmed its participation in the congress, but opposition groups are yet to announce their readiness.
According to the final statement, the trio also agreed to establish a working group on the release of detainees and cooperate on mine clearance in the conflict-torn country.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, praised the agreement on detainees, saying it could become the first step toward a comprehensive arrangement between the conflicting parties.
  Call for Stronger UN Role
On the sidelines of the summit, Iran's top negotiator Hossein Jaberi Ansari sat down for talks with de Mistura on Friday.
Speaking in the meeting, Ansari, a deputy foreign minister, emphasized the need for stronger UN role in the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East, Tasnim News Agency reported.  
Ansari also explained the measures Iran has taken to end the war in Syria, particularly its contribution to the humanitarian aid plans.
De Mistura briefed the senior Iranian diplomat on the results of the latest round of the Geneva peace negotiations held under the UN auspices last month.
The latest Astana meeting was held on the one-year anniversary of the liberation of Aleppo, which effectively drove the final nail in the coffin of regime change dreams in Syria.
Since then, Russia and Iran, supporters of the Syrian government, started working with Turkey, a backer of the government's opponents, to produce a political settlement to the conflict.
The three countries agreed on a nationwide ceasefire late last year that led to significant drop in violence in the country.
According to the statement, the next round of Astana talks will be held in the second half of February.
The next Geneva meeting is expected in late January.

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