On May 3-4, the Fourth High-level International Meeting on Syria took place in the capital of Kazakhstan within the framework of the Astana Process. Delegations of the government of Syria and the Syrian armed opposition, the guarantor states of the ceasefire regime – Iran, Russia and Turkey, – as well as high representatives of the United Nations, Jordan and the United States took part in the negotiations.
The results of the two-day meeting were announced at a plenary session with the participation of all parties. In his remarks, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov stressed that the Astana Process, which was launched with the direct participation and full support of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has become an important negotiating platform, meaningfully complementing the Geneva format.
The Foreign Minister said: “As is known, since the third round of talks in Astana held in March this year, there was a significant escalation of tensions in Syria, a number of tragic events took place. In this situation, the significance of the Astana process has increased even more”. In this regard, Mr. Abdrakhmanov particularly noted the high level of representation of guarantor states and all the stakeholders in the fourth round of talks in Astana.
The main outcome of the meeting was the signing by the guarantor states of the Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, aimed at ending violence, preserving the unity and territorial integrity of the country, and finding a political solution to the conflict.
The signed document notes that within the lines of the four de-escalation zones, which include the Idlib province and part of the provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, the area north of Homs, eastern Ghouta, and the provinces of Daraa and Al Quneitra in southern Syria, the use of any kind of weapons, including aerial, will be forbidden, humanitarian aid and medicines will be provided, measures will be taken to restore basic infrastructure facilities for the needs of the population, conditions for the safe return of refugees will be created, etc.
During the meeting in Astana, the participants also discussed issues concerning the creation of a working group on the exchange of detainees and discussed the draft of a document on this issue.
The guarantor states reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and reiterated their conviction that the Syrian conflict can only be solved through a political process.
The negotiators also expressed gratitude to the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and to the Kazakh authorities for hosting the International Meeting on Syria in Astana.
The sides agreed to hold the next high-level meeting in Astana in mid-July 2017 and agreed to hold preliminary expert consultations two weeks in advance in Ankara.
Kazakhstan regards the results of the Fourth International Meeting on Syria in Astana as another substantial step towards peace in Syria, calls on all parties to implement all agreements, and confirms its readiness to continue contributing to international efforts to find various ways for a political settlement of the Syrian conflict, including as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.