Astana, Sep 14 (IANS) Russian, Turkish and Iranian forces will monitor at least three of the four Syrian de-escalation zones mandated following last December’s ceasefire, Moscow’s chief delegate to the Astana process said here on Thursday.
The parties gathered in the Kazakh capital — the three guarantor nations, the Bashar al-Assad government and the Syrian opposition — are close to agreement on the details of the zones, Alexandr Lavrentiev told a press conference, Efe news reported.
Even so, he said, negotiations continue on the “concrete” composition of the forces to be deployed in the provinces of Idlib, Homs and Ghouta.
While the parties agreed in May on the creation of the zones, the opposition has refused so far to accept the presence of Iranian observers in the de-escalation areas.
Lack of accord on that point wrecked the fifth round of Astana talks in July.
The fourth truce zone, located in southwestern Syria, was designated thanks to the intervention of the US and Jordan, who used their influence over the rebel groups active there.
The US and Jordan, who are also represented at the talks in the Kazakh capital, will have a great deal of say in the mechanisms for overseeing the de-escalation in the southwest, Lavrentiev said.
The Russian diplomat expressed confidence that all pending questions regarding the truce zones would be resolved on Friday.
Other topics under negotiation during this sixth round of the Astana process include the establishment of a cease-fire coordination centre and the appointment of a working group on the release of prisoners and hostages.
The participants are expected to sign a joint declaration on the removal of landmines from around Syrian monuments that are listed by the UN as World Heritage Sites.