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Published On: Sun, Sep 17th, 2017

Astana agreement doesn’t legalize Turkey’s troops in Idlib: Syrian Foreign Ministry

nsnbc : A source at the Syrian Arab Republic’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said that the de-escalation zone established as part of the Astana 6 talks do not legitimize or legalize the existence of any Turkish forces on Syrian territories.

MSF supported hospital in Ma'arat Al Numan, Islib, Syria, bombed in February 2016. Photo courtesy MSF.

MSF supported hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan, Idlib, Syria, bombed in February 2016. Photo courtesy MSF.

The unnamed source was quoted by the Syrian State news agency SANA as saying “Based on the Syrian government’s commitment to positively interact with any initiative that would solve the crisis in Syria, stop the shedding of Syrian blood and alleviate the suffering of Syrian people, Syria took part in the past 6 rounds of Astana talks and it was  open in dealing with  all participating parties”.

The statement, released on Saturday following talks in Astana, added that all documents and agreements issued, particularly de-escalation zone agreements, have been reached after consultations between the Syrian government, Russia and Iran.

SANA reported that “the source” noted that the Syrian government deputized the Russian and Iranian parties to complete  the final agreement on Idlib province as long as they are the two guarantor states of the Syrian side, pointing out that it is an opportunity for the Turkish side and Erdogan’s government which guarantee the armed terrorist groups to retreat from their position in support of terrorism and stop arming, financing and supplying terrorists and sending them to Syria which will help restoring security to these areas.

”Syria stresses that agreement on establishing a de-escalation zone in Idleb province is temporary deal that aims at reviving the ancient Damascus-Hama-Aleppo road which will contribute to reducing the suffering of civilians and facilitate movement to Aleppo and neighboring areas,” the unnamed source reportedly said. It reaffirmed that Syria will not waive its right to preserve its independence and territorial integrity and it will not halt its war to eradicate terrorism wherever it exists and whoever supports it.

The de-escalation zones under the agreements reached in Astana will now include fully or in part, Eastern Ghouta, the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Latakia, Aleppo and Hama, according to a joint statement released by the three guarantor countries following the sixth round of Astana talks in Kazakhstan’s capital on Sept. 15. Representatives from the Syrian government and opposition groups also attended the meeting.

The six-month term may be extended in the future on the basis of consensus between the guarantor countries. “[Russia, Turkey and Iran] emphasize the need for the conflicting parties to take confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees/abductees and the handover of the bodies as well as identification of missing persons, to create better conditions for the political process and lasting ceasefire,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.

As part of the agreement, the guarantor countries also decided to form a joint Iranian-Russian-Turkish coordination center aimed at coordinating the activities of de-escalation control forces in the safe zones.

In accordance with the agreement, the three countries will deploy observers across the de-escalation zones. In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the agreement and said the “observers from these three countries will be deployed at check and observation points in safe zones that form the borders of the de-escalation zone.” “The main mission of these observers has been defined as the prevention of clashes between the regime and the opposition forces and any violations of the truce,” it added.

Alexander Lavrentyev, special envoy for Syria for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia, Iran and Turkey will send about 500 observers each to Idlib, and the Russians will be military policemen. Lavrentyev also told reporters that the exact deployment locations of the de-escalation control forces was yet to be determined. The guarantors have already started discussing setting up national reconciliation committees in Syria and will continue those discussions at the next meeting in late October, Lavrentyev said. The next meeting is planned to take place in late October in the Kazakh capital, read the joint agreement.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari told reporters about the “joint presence” in Idlib referred to as a “secure cordon” with checkpoints. Idlib province, in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey, is largely under the control of a rebel alliance spearheaded by the al-Qaeda offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra.

“This announcement of a de-escalation zone in Idlib constitutes the final stage of the realization of the memorandum signed in May,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, adding that the May accord had brought a significant decline in violence. “With this latest development, the memorandum is making a significant contribution to providing necessary conditions to further the political solution process going on in Geneva under U.N. monitoring,” it said.

Critics have described the plan as de facto partitioning of Syria, but the three nations said on September 15 the zones were temporary, although their existence could be extended beyond the initial six-month term. Idlib was one of the four regions across Syria with a strong presence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. In May Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to designate as a de-escalation zone in support of a ceasefire agreement.

Idlib is also the province of Syria with the strongest presence of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat Al-Nusra and gangs allied to al-Nusra. More than 10,000 Al-Nusra fighters plus their families have been granted free passage to Idlib province under a number of different ceasefire and de-escalation agreements. The latest major agreement was reached in August and involved a prisoner exchange between Al-Nusra and Hezbollah and the transfer of some 10,000 Al-Nusra and other militants, their families, and a large number of non-combatant Syrians to Syria’s Idlib province.

CH/L – nsnbc 17.09.2017

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