NUR-SULTAN – The guarantors of the ceasefire decreed three years ago in Syria – Russia, Iran and Turkey – reaffirmed on Wednesday their commitment to the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the Arab country and rejected any attempt to carve out autonomous regions there.
In a joint declaration, the guarantor countries rejected “all attempts to create new realities on the ground, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives, under the pretext of combating terrorism.”
The declaration was adopted on the second and last day of the 14th round of the Astana Process for verification of compliance with the Dec. 2016 ceasefire in Syria.
Representatives of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition attended the latest round as did observers from the United Nations, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
The guarantors expressed their decision to “stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as threatening the national security of neighboring countries.”
The joint statement did not mention the Kurds, but the head of the Syrian Government delegation, Bashar Jaafari, told a press conference that Damascus did not recognize Kurdish autonomy in the northwest of the country.
“Syria rejects all attempts at autonomy, because it is a sign of separatism. But our doors are open and we periodically dialogue with the Kurds,” the Syrian diplomat said.
He said Damascus was confident dialogue would lead to reunification with the “Kurdish brothers,” which, he added, “will understand their mistake and move away from the Americans.”
The situation in the province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, was one of the central themes of the consultations in Nur-Sultan.
Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to adopt concrete measures to “ensure the protection of the civilian population in accordance with international humanitarian law as well as the safety and security of the military personnel of the guarantors present within and outside the Idlib de-escalation area.”
At the same time, they expressed their “great concern” about the growing presence of terrorist groups that threaten the civilian population both inside and outside that area, and stressed the need to continue prisoner release operations.
Russia, Turkey and Iran said they were willing to support the work of the committee that is to l develop the new Syrian Constitution through interaction with its members and with the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, who also participated in the negotiations.
“At this time, my priority is to agree on the agenda with the co-chairs ... and facilitate the holding of the next Constitutional Committee meeting. It is still premature to venture out when it will finish its work,” Pedersen said in response to questions about when the new Constitution would be drafted.
The next round of consultations in the Kazakh capital is to be held in March next year.