A senior Russian diplomat says humanitarian issues will top the agenda of the second day of the intra-Syrian talks, mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey, in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday after attending the first day of the seventh round of the discussions, Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s special envoy to the Astana peace process, said Moscow has been doing everything in its power to help the Syrian government and opposition groups strengthen mutual trust.
“We take up the measures to build trust between the conflicting sides, to resolve the problem of humanitarian mine clearing, and to adopt a document on the forcibly held persons and exchange of bodies of the dead,” he said.
The exchange of the detainees and the deceased is “a rather complicated issue” whose solution requires “scrupulous coordination with due account of legal aspects and details,” he added.
The seventh round of the Astana talks began on Monday with the participation of representatives from the Damascus government and opposition as well as the three guarantor states, the United Nations, Jordan and the United States.
The discussions have brought representatives from Syria’s warring sides to the negotiating table in a bid to end the foreign-backed militancy in the Arab country, which broke out in March 2011.
Six rounds of the negotiations took place on January 23-24, February 15-16, March 14-15, May 3-4, July 4-5 and September 14-15.
The fourth round of the Astana discussions in May resulted in an agreement on four de-escalation zones across Syria, which cover the provinces of Idlib and Homs as well as the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus and Syria’s southern border with Jordan.
The parties to the talks used the fifth round of the process to build up on the results of the May agreements.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrentyev noted that a potential congress of the Syrian government, opposition and all ethnic groups had been proposed.
He also mentioned that Damascus was now ready to support political efforts aimed at reaching national reconciliation as well as possible amendments to Syria’s constitution.
The Russian official further expressed confidence that the current round of the Astana negotiations will be successful and offer an opportunity for “laying the groundwork for future rounds of talks.”
Zarif, Lavrov discuss Astana process
Additionally, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif held a phone conversation on Monday about the Astana peace process.
“The ministers discussed issues concerning further coordination of actions in order to successfully advance the Astana process on political settlement in Syria,” the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.