The seventh round of the Astana meetings kicked off on Monday with bilateral meetings held between opposition and Syrian regime delegations with representatives of some states and the UN, ahead of meetings expected on Tuesday with a Russian delegation that should carry answers to the files of hostages and violations in the de-escalation zones.
Ahead of the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed a Syrian political settlement in two telephone conversations with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
During the two phone calls, "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 said.
The two-day international meeting on Syria is sponsored by the three guarantors of the ceasefire, Turkey, Russia and Iran, and will mainly address the release of captives and hostages, and humanitarian action on mines.
During the upcoming talks, the opposition delegation expects that Russia will have some answers on the files of hostages and captives held by the Syrian regime, in addition to the opposition’s request that Iranian militias withdraw from the country.
Spokesman for the Syrian opposition Yahya al-Aridi told Asharq Al-Awsat that during the first day of talks in the Kazakh capital, there were no decisions or results, adding that the bilateral meetings were rather consultative.
“During the meetings, we stressed on our demands that the other side respect the ceasefire and start to find a solution to the captives and hostages, whose number has exceeded a quarter million,” al-Aridi said.
Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, who leads the Russian team, said on Monday that Russian experts, who previously worked in the Idlib area, might be re-dispatched there.
“We set up about 10 observation posts in Idlib one-and-a-half months ago,” Lavrentiev told reporters.
He said the posts were “temporarily" taken down to ensure their security.
“We’re talking about the process of re-establishing them,” he added.
Lavrentiev said that the name of the Congress of Peoples of Syria to be held at the Hmeimim air base on Novembe1 18 would be changed to the “National Dialogue Congress.” Reports said on Monday that the location of the congress might be moved to the Russian Sochi resort.