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Astana Peace process: 17th round of talks on Syria begin in Kazakhstan

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By Josephine Joly
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Syrian regime representatives and opposition delegates along with other attendees take part in the session of Syria peace talks in Astana on December 22, 2017.
Syrian regime representatives and opposition delegates along with other attendees take part in the session of Syria peace talks in Astana on December 22, 2017.   -   Copyright  STANISLAV FILIPPOV / AFP

Delegations from Turkey, Russia, and Iran have met Tuesday in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan for the 17th meeting of the Astana Peace process that aims to find a solution to the decade-long crisis in Syria.

Within the scope of the Astana talks, bilateral and trilateral meetings are being held.

The Turkish delegation is headed by Ambassador Selçuk Ünal, the foreign ministry’s Syria Director-General, while Russia is represented by President Vladimir Putin's Special Representative for Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, and Iran by Ali Asgar Haji, a senior adviser to the Iranian foreign minister on special political affairs.

The Syrian opposition is participating under the chairmanship of Ahmet Tuma.

Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon also took part in the talks with the status of "observers", in which Khawla Mattar, the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, also attended.

The Turkish delegation first met with the UN Special Delegation to Syria.

The talks are scheduled to take place over two days and will address several issues such as the current situation in Syria, the delivery of humanitarian aid, the resumption of the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, the exchange of prisoners, the release of hostages, as well as the search for missing persons.

Ahead of the meeting, Lavrentyev said that the talks would primarily focus on the situation on the ground and the provision of a ceasefire.

Noting that the sleeper cells of DAESH and other terrorist groups in Syria have started to become active again recently, Lavrentyev added that they will "prioritise this issue in our meetings with our Turkish and Iranian partners".

"The work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee will also be one of the most important agenda items of the talks. We had a productive meeting with the Syrian delegation (regime) on this issue," he went on, drawing attention to the importance of advancing the political process in Syria in order to overcome issues such as the refugee problem, the release of the detainees, and the humanitarian crisis.

Despite several countries attending the talks, the West was noticeably absent.

"No outside powers of the major donor countries like the United States and Europen Union wish to engage in the reconstruction process to fund up because they do not wish to give the regime any means of support. So in many ways, the situation is stuck," Chris Doyle, director at the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Euronews.

The Astana talks on Syria were initiated in 2017 under the guarantor of Turkey, Russia, and Iran in order to bring a solution to the Syrian crisis.

The UN estimates that at least 350,000 people have been killed overall.

Additional sources • ANADOLU