Syria

Syrian opposition confirms that US activities in Syria will lead to division in the country, says Russian official

The U.S. activities in the southeastern Syria poses a threat to the country’s integrity, Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria said on Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference following a regular meeting in Astana — which hosted 11th Syria peace talks –, Alexander Lavrentyev said the Syrian opposition is irritated by the U.S. activities in At Tanf region, southeastern Syria.

“It was noteworthy that the representatives of the Syrian opposition, with whom we had quite productive talks today, stressed their dislike for the current situation (in the southeastern Syria).

“They admitted that, according to their feelings, the Americans, indeed, are tending to a certain division of the country, making show of, at the same time, a commitment to the principles of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, indivisibility of Syria,” he said.

Russia constantly expresses concern over the 55 km zone, “occupied” by the U.S., according to the Russian wording, near At Tanf region, on the eastern bank of Euphrates.

Recently, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. has been training the militants at its At Tanf military base.

Russian authorities, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, keep saying that the U.S. intends to create “a quasi state” basing on the Kurdish population, dominant in the region.

Moscow insists that the U.S. presence and actions in the area are illegal and violate Syria’s territorial integrity.

Idlib

Lavrentyev, also head of the Russian delegation at the Astana talks on Syria, branded the talks with the Syrian opposition “constructive”.

On the situation in the northwestern Idlib province in Syria, he said it was difficult to say how long it would take to solve the problem. Everyone, he added, “sincerely wants” to do it.

After a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.

On Oct. 10, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups had completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Idlib demilitarized zone.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, the Assad regime and its allies have continued their low-intensity attacks on Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

2 day event kicks off with meeting between representatives of Russia and Syrian regime in Kazakh capital

The 11th round of Syria peace talks in the Astana format started on Wednesday with a meeting between the representatives of Russia and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime in the Kazakh capital.

Ahead of the meeting, Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria, told reporters that the establishment of a constitutional committee for a new constitution, the ceasefire in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, the problems of refugees and the fight against terrorism will be discussed in the meeting.

A meeting of the Astana Working Group established for the release of prisoners is also expected to be held.

The meeting will evaluate a pilot project that saw the mutual and simultaneous release of Syrian detainees both from the Assad regime and opposition sides on Saturday.

The project of the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons was established as part of the Astana process with the participation of Turkey, Russia and Iran — three guarantor countries of the Astana process — as well as the UN, according to Turkish Foreign Ministry.

On Tuesday, the UN said its outgoing Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura will meet with top officials from the guarantor countries in Astana to work on establishing a committee to write a new constitution for the war-torn country.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry announced the arrival of all parties in Astana.

Heading the group on behalf of the main Syrian opposition Ahmed Tuma, the former premier of the Syrian interim government, will stress the lack of sustainable environment for the repatriation of Syrian refugees and the reconstruction of the country, as well as the ongoing regime’s detentions in talks with the UN and Russia, according to opposition sources.

The Turkish delegation — represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedal Onal — is expected to hold meetings with the opposition group, Russian and Iranian representatives.

The guarantor countries are expected to hold a meeting on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s main session — where all the sides will meet and a final declaration will be read out.

Iran is represented by Hussein Gabri Ansari, assistant foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, while Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria represent Russia.

The Syrian regime will be represented by Bashar Jaafari, the regime’s permanent representative to the UN.

The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity. –