Russia is ready to act as a mediator between the Syrian government and Turkey on the situation in Idlib, the head of the Russian delegation at talks in Astana, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Monday.
“At the present stage, we are not speaking about coordination between the government of Syria and Turkish military. Most likely Russia will act as a certain mediator on the issue,” said the diplomat, who is also Russian president’s special envoy for Syria.
Russia expects to coordinate issues on stabilization of the situation around Idlib in the seventh round of negotiations on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan, he went on.
“This is already a seventh meeting, much water has flown under the bridges, the situation ‘on ground’ has drastically changed,” Lavrentyev said. “However, the issues that must be settled persist,” he added.
The head of the Russian delegation at Astana talks said active consultations of working groups at the expert and high levels have already started. “A wide range of issues is discussed, first of all as concerns the situation in de-escalation zones,” the diplomat went on. “Iranian, Turkish and Russian observers are present in the area of Idlib. Now the process of coordinating the sites for the deployment of Iranian and Turkish observers continues,” he said.
“A broad range of major issues is brought up, which I think we will manage to coordinate for seeing stabilization in this difficult region, where a lot of gunmen from Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia terrorist organization) are concentrated,” Lavrentyev added.
He expressed confidence that the current round of negotiations will be successful, and will offer an opportunity for “laying the groundwork for future rounds of talks”.
“During today’s meetings we also touch upon issues of building up trust between the conflicting parties, issues of humanitarian demining, and adoption of a document on forcibly detained people and exchange of bodies of those killed,” he said after expert consultations at the Syria peace talks in Astana.
According to Lavrentyev, it is a difficult issue and efforts to resolve it have been failing for quite a time. “This issue obviously requires a rather thorough coordination with due account of all legal nuances and specifics,” he noted.
Four de-escalation zones are being established in Syria since the start of May in line with an agreement reached in Astana by representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey, the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire. At the moment, three zones are functioning: in the southwest of Syria, in Eastern Ghouta and in the area of Homs city. The fourth zone includes Idlib province and parts of the neighboring provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama.