ASTANA – The ninth round of high-level talks on peace in Syria known as the Astana Process is slated for the end of February in the Kazakh capital, the Central Asian nation’s top diplomat announced on Tuesday.
“The meeting will take place towards the end of February, but we need final confirmation by the states that guarantee the ceasefire – Russia, Turkey and Iran,” Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said.
The last round of negotiations in Astana led to the holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress last week in the Russian resort city of Sochi, where a constitutional commission was created for Syria under the auspices of the United Nations.
After the meeting in Sochi – which was boycotted by the Syrian opposition and the Kurds – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the commitments reached in the Russian resort city were in line with the principles on which the negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations were based.
However, Guterres stressed that “progress towards a political settlement needs to be accompanied by progress on the ground.”
Russia, Turkey and Iran sponsor the Astana Process and are the guarantors of the year-old Syrian ceasefire agreement even though Moscow and Tehran support the regime of President Bachar al Asad, while Turkey backs the Syrian opposition militias.
The Astana talks aim to create a sustainable ceasefire by adopting confidence-building measures, like the release of prisoners and an agreement that established four safe areas to protect the civilian population and reduce tension between the rebels and Damascus.