6th Astana Process Talks Produce De-Escalation Zone Agreement

The sixth round of Astana Process talks in the Kazakh capital ended Sept. 15 with participants agreeing to a final de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

The zone will be the fourth where no military activity will be allowed. The de-escalation zones were envisioned by a May 4 agreement signed by Iran, Russia and Turkey, guarantor states to the ceasefire regime, during the fourth round of talks in the Kazakh capital.

The Astana Process talks to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria have been ongoing since January and are meant to supplement the UN-brokered Geneva talks.

The talks have brought to the table all sides of the Syrian conflict, including delegations from the three guarantor states, the Syrian government and Syrian armed opposition factions. UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura and delegates from Jordan and the U.S. have also attended as observers.

Guarantor states Iran, Russia and Turkey are deploying forces to control de-escalation based on maps agreed on September 8 in Ankara and in accordance with the mandate developed by the Joint Working Group on De-escalation to deploy de-escalation control forces on a temporary basis in the security belt of de-escalation zones in Idlib province and in certain parts of the neighbouring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo to prevent clashes between the conflicting parties.

A joint Iran-Russia-Turkey centre is also being established to coordinate the actions of de-escalation control forces. The guarantor countries noted “progress in the fight against terrorism and elimination of ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and all other individuals, groups, enterprises and organisations associated with Al-Qaida or ISIL as a result of the functioning of these de-escalation zones” and confirmed their determination “to take all necessary measures to continue to fight them both inside and outside de-escalation zones.”

The guarantor countries have also urged observers to the Astana Process and the international community to support the de-escalation and stabilisation process in Syria, including by providing additional assistance to population, facilitating humanitarian demining, preserving historical heritage as well as restoring life support facilities, social and economic infrastructure.

“Few believed in the success of the Astana Process launched in January this year, however, thanks to the determination of the participants of Astana talks, there is now hope to resolve this acute crisis through peaceful means. Today, the participants can go further as they managed to overcome many challenges and achieve considerable results in restoring stability and peace in Syria. They reached what seemed to be impossible and efforts in this direction led to the creation of de-escalation zones in different parts of Syria,” noted Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov during a plenary session wrapping up the two-day closed-door negotiations.

Abdrakhmanov also praised the leadership of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in initiating the Astana Process.

“From the very start of the crisis, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has consistently talked to the parties to the conflict in an effort to persuade them to come to the negotiation table and urged them to seek diplomatic solutions because military means only exacerbate the situation. Now the Astana talks have made it possible to turn differences and disagreements into a start of successful and productive cooperation among the parties involved,” said Abdrakhmanov.

Many believe that the establishment and adherence to the de-escalation zones has significantly reduced the level of violence in Syria and that the Astana Process talks will have a positive impact on the upcoming peace talks in Geneva, said the Kazakh side.

The guarantor states have also expressed their “gratitude to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Kazakh authorities for hosting the 6th International High-Level Meeting on Syria in Astana.”