Russia, Turkey, Iran discuss Syria ceasefire in Astana

Russia, Iran and Turkey are expected to discuss the modalities of a cease-fire they brokered in Syria at a meeting in Astana on Feb. 6 amid Turkey’s mounting concerns that Syrian regime forces and its Shiite militia allies have violated the truce in opposition-held Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that a tripartite mechanism was established by the three countries to monitor the cease-fire in Syria.

“The cease-fire is largely holding. Russia, Turkey and Iran have established a mechanism that allows them to monitor the implementation of the truce,” Lavrov said.

Delegations from the three countries are expected to discuss the monitoring system and enforcement measures for the truce.

Turkey considers the inclusion of Iran in the cease-fire as “success” because the violations in the truce deal brokered by Turkey and Russia were made by the Syrian regime and Hezbollah militias over the justification that some Syrian opposition groups in Barada Valley and East Ghouta were affiliated to al-Nusra, which is excluded from the deal.

Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria Alexande Lavrentive visited Tehran on Feb. 5, a day before the Astana meeting.

Ankara warns Syrian opposition about constitutional draft

Turkey has warned Syrian opposition groups from refraining to discuss the future administrative make-up of Syria or a new constitution at the talks in Geneva on Feb. 20.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın met with Riyad Hijab, the general coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee, President of the Syrian National Council Enes el Abde, representatives of opposition military groups participating in the Astana talks, the Syrian Kurdish National Council, Syrian Turkmen representatives as well as some Druze and Alawite religious scholars in Ankara on Feb. 3 ahead of the new peace talks.

Ankara favors the Kurdish National Council over the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which it considers to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

At the talks in Astana in January, Russia gave opposition representatives a draft version of the new Syrian constitution and a blueprint promoted by Moscow as offering a possible solution to the conflict.

But a Turkish foreign ministry source said they “pointed out that bringing up the future administrative system of Syria at the moment and attempting to start a discussion on issues such as a new constitution, autonomy or federalism could risk serving the purposes of those who pursue unilateral agendas.”

“These kinds of attempts should be avoided as it targets current parameters for a political solution by the U.N. Security Council decision,” said the source.

The source also warned against the presence of “fake opposition” at the talks, a reference to groups deemed by Turkey to be too loyal to Bashar al-Assad favored by Moscow.