Iran, Russia and Turkey, the guarantor states that brokered a ceasefire in Syria in December 2016, kicked off Monday their first day of meetings in the ninth round of the Astana peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Syria.
The US, however, did not attend negotiations in the Kazakh capital, a development that reflects Washington’s decision to stop participation, even as an observer, in any path in which Tehran is a sponsor, particularly in light of the current US-Iranian escalation.
On Monday, Russian chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev criticized the US for not sending a delegation to observe the latest round of peace talks.
“This time round the Americans, unfortunately, have decided not to support our international efforts,” he said.
The ninth round of talks will focus on the necessary conditions for the release of captives and hostages, which was impeded by obstacles placed by the Syrian regime and Iran.
They will also tackle de-escalation zones and means to organize the missions of guarantor countries in some areas, particularly in Idlib.
Observers expect that the Russian, Iranian and Turkish negotiators will discuss in detail the expansion of Ankara’s presence in Idlib, where the its army has already established a new monitoring position.
Separately, Lebanese “Hezbollah” Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said the attack on the Israeli-occupied positions in Syria’s Golan Heights last week reflects a major development and marks the beginning of a “completely new phase” in the Syrian war.
Addressing a crowd of supporters at a memorial ceremony held by the party in Beirut’s southern suburbs, he said in a televised speech: “Fifty-five rockets, some of them large, were fired at occupation sites in the Golan.”
“Large explosions forced settlers in the Golan to take refuge. (...) What happened was one of the forms of retaliation to the continuous aggression against Syria.”
Israel last week attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-occupied territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.
It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the 2011 start of the war.
Israel said 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system or did not reach targets in the occupied Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in a 1967 war. The Quds Force, an external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried out the rocket salvo, Israel said.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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