Experts from the Astana format’s working group for the exchange of prisoners in Syria are working on a prisoner swap between Damascus and the opposition, in which some 50 for 50 people could be swapped, Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told a news conference on Wednesday.
The experts in the working group “are currently looking into different options for arriving at new agreements between the warring parties to see the number of exchanged people grow,” he said.
“It is difficult at the moment to give concrete figures, but we hope that within the next few months about 50 to 60 people will be exchanged,” Lavrentyev told reporters.
He said ten people on each side had been exchanged in efforts of the working group to swap detainees.
“The guarantor countries, all of us, we believe the first step is the hardest – it is a very good sign showing that things are happening, that this pilot project has been launched at last,” the diplomat explained.
He said that if things go the way they are now “we will see that confidence-building measures between the warring parties will keep strengthening”.
On July 30-31, Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi hosted the tenth meeting of the three guarantor nations of the Syrian ceasefire (Russia, Iran and Turkey), who agreed to launch a pilot project to help the parties to the conflict exchange lists of casualties, prisoners and missing persons.
Negotiations about the exchange of prisoners in Syria have long been conducted on various platforms. Outgoing UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura suggested creating such mechanism as early as in the spring of 2016. However, such efforts produced no result until recently.