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Astana Sponsors Discuss Bolstering Syria Ceasefire - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Moscow- Two weeks after indirect talks were held in the Kazakh capital between delegations from the Syrian opposition factions and the regime, countries sponsoring the Astana meeting on Syria are expected to convene in the same place on Monday to hold technical talks on a Syrian settlement in the presence of representatives from Russia, Turkey, Iran and the U.N.

Sources in the Kazakh capital told Asharq Al-Awsat that during Monday’s technical meeting between military officials, the states sponsoring the Astana talks would work to approve some mechanisms to secure preventing any violations of the ceasefire in Syria, under conditions that would please all parties.

The sources said participants in Monday’s meeting would also discuss guarantees to send humanitarian aid to Syria, in addition to other issues.

Last month, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed during the Astana talks to monitor Syrian regime and opposition compliance with a Dec. 30 truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara.

For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted on Sunday that the Astana talks were a “breakthrough” in efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria but would not replace the Geneva talks.

“We are not planning to replace Geneva with the Astana format,” he said in an interview with Profile newspaper published on the foreign ministry’s website.

A new round of U.N. talks to solve the Syrian crisis is planned to begin in Geneva on Feb. 20. While the Syrian regime and “Hezbollah” continue their attacks on areas controlled by opposition factions that had agreed on the Dec. 30 truce, Lavrov said participants in the Astana talks were able to bolster the ceasefire.

In a separate development, the Russian Defense Ministry denied on Sunday reports about the death of five of its soldiers near the city of Tartus on the Syrian coast.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said: “The reports of Qatar’s Al Jazeera television channel about the death of Russian soldiers in Syria are false. All the Russian military members, who are in the Syrian Arab Republic, are alive, healthy and continue carrying out assigned tasks.”

Separately, the National Coordination Committee in Syria has started to prepare for a national salvation meeting called the “Work To Save Syria,” with an aim to unify the ranks of opposition factions, Hassan Abdul Azim, the General Coordinator of the Committee told Asharq Al-Awsat.