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Putin Says Astana Talks Helped Revive Geneva as Syrian Opposition Meets Russians | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Russian Navy’s frigate Admiral Grigorovich sails in the Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul. Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that talks on consolidating the Syrian ceasefire held in Kazakhstan’s capital this year helped jumpstart the United Nations-led peace negotiations in Geneva.

At the first round of the talks in Astana in January, Russia and Iran, allies of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, an Assad opponent, reaffirmed a shaky ceasefire between insurgents and the regime.

“A mechanism to control the ceasefire has been created, which is the most important thing,” Putin told reporters during a visit to Kazakhstan.

“This is the foundation that has allowed the Geneva negotiations to resume.”

The Astana ceasefire has been repeatedly violated, while the war with jihadist groups such as ISIS – which are not included under the ceasefire – has raged on.

Meanwhile, a senior negotiator said the main Syrian opposition group at the Geneva talks plans to meet Russian envoys to discuss promises it says Moscow had not kept.

“The (opposition) High Negotiations Committee (HNC) will be meeting today with the delegation of the foreign ministry,” negotiator Mohammed Alloush told Reuters when asked if he planned to meet Russian officials.

“The Russians did not fulfil a ceasefire agreement despite the promises from the highest levels of the Russian delegation,” Alloush, a member of the Jaish al-Islam rebel group, said.

Also Monday, the Russian frigate Admiral Grigorovich left the port of Sevastopol in Crimea for the Mediterranean where it will join the country’s naval forces deployed near the Syrian coast, a naval official said.

The frigate armed with Kalibr (Caliber) cruise missiles was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea last November as part of Russia’s naval task force to Syria where it launched missile strikes against ISIS targets.

On the battlefield, regime air raids on northwest Syria killed at least 11 people overnight, mostly civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday.

“Regime warplanes carried out air strikes after midnight on several areas in the town of Ariha” in Idlib province, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“The preliminary toll is 11 killed, including at least seven civilians,” three of them children, he said.

Also in northern Syria, a military source told AFP that Syrian forces had “seized 18 towns and villages, including the town of Taduf and a number of strategic hilltops in eastern Aleppo province, totaling about 600 square kilometers.”

Taduf had been held by ISIS jihadists and lies near Al-Bab, a key town where rebel fighters, backed by Turkish soldiers, artillery, and air power, defeated the terrorist organization last week.