According to the Russian special presidential envoy to Syria, Syrian president Bashar Assad wants to stick to commitments undertaken previously concerning the transition to a political settlement after the main military phase of the fight against terrorism is completed.
Russian special presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said in an interview to RT and Rossiya-24 the Russian delegation visited Damascus to discuss the issue of political transition with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The talks were focused on the government’s vision of the further political settlement.
“We wanted to see whether Damascus is maintaining its commitment to the obligations it previously undertook. In particular, concerning the transition to a political settlement after the main military phase of the fight against terrorism is completed,” Lavrentiev said.
Lavrentiev underlined the importance of the recent Assad’s press statement, confirming Syria’s commitment to political reforms, the preparation of a new constitution and the start of preparations for parliamentary and presidential elections, as set in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2254.
“It is vital that Bashar Assad is really willing to find ways to attain national reconciliation. We spoke in detail about the launch of the process for national dialogue between various parts of Syrian society,” Lavrentiev said.
The statement was made amid the seventh round of the Astana-format talks on the Syrian settlement that kicked off in the Kazakh capital. The talks, in particular, will focus on creating a working group that will deal with hostage and prisoner release, the return of fallen soldiers bodies, and searches for those missing.
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“We hope that these issues will be resolved during the seventh round of talks, at least in a particular part to promote confidence-building between the conflicting parties,” Lavrentiev said.
The envoy added that the Russian delegation hoped to encourage Syrian opposition to hold a constructive dialogue with Damascus.
Earlier in the day, a well-informed source told Sputnik that the Congress of the Syrian people aiming to bring together a large number of representatives of the Syrian opposition and government forces would most likely take place in mid-November in Russia’s Sochi.
“It is unclear where it would take place or when. We shall discuss this today and tomorrow with our colleagues from the guarantor states, but we believe nevertheless that this forum is an important milestone on the path towards the political reconciliation. We always said that the Syrian people should determine their future themselves, so if all representatives, respected people meet there and discuss what they should do and in which form further participation in political reforms is envisioned, then I think it will be very important,” Lavrentiev said.
Guarantor States and De-escalation Zones
Lavrentiev also praised the decision to establish de-escalation zones as “very right,” adding that it was possible to “stabilize the situation on the ground to a great extent.”
“Of course there are some difficulties because of the provocations of various groups in the de-escalation zones, but we’re trying to prevent such negative incidents as much as we can. Observation posts work really well … The situation is a bit more complicated in Idlib zone where our Turkish colleagues so far have not fully put observation points in place. The tension level is still pretty high there, and there is a danger of offensives from some groups that are present there. We hope that Turkey will carry out its obligations on Idlib zone,” he said.
Control over the de-escalation zone in Idlib is supposed to be carried out by the forces of all three guarantor states (Russia, Turkey and Iran), while in three other zones it is done only by Russian military police.
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Lavrentiev has also commented on the possibility to include other actors as guarantors of the peace settlement.
“So far, this issue has not come up [on the other states participating as observers]. Several countries have expressed their willingness to take part in the Astana format as observers. But during the preparation for Astana-7 with guarantor states we decided to put this issue on hold, in order to work out criteria that any state should meet if it wants to enter the Astana process as an observer,” Lavrentiev said in an interview to RT and Rossiya-24.
According to Russian special presidential envoy to Syria, the country will be fully liberated from Daesh in coming weeks.
“The Kurds control a significant part of the Syrian territory and made a significant contribution to the eradication of terrorist structures on the country’s territory, first and foremost Daesh… I think that the Syrian territory will be fully cleared of Daesh formations in coming weeks. The issue is arising on involving the Kurds more actively in the post-war restoration and political resolution,” he said.
Lavrentiev has also named the demining issue as one of the key factors of the country’s restoration, saying that almost every building in the recently liberated Deir ez-Zor, Mayadin and other areas is mined. He urged the international community to support Russia’s efforts on the creation of conditions necessary for the locals to return to their peaceful lives.