Nur-Sultan, 22 December 2021 (TDI): Representatives of the Astana Format – Iran, Russia, and Turkey –  and UN Representatives arrived in Kazakhstan to participate in the 17th round of talks. The parties made a statement at the end of the 17th International Meeting on Syria. The sponsors noted that there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict.

The talks will focus on the proposals to maintain peace in the region, in accordance with “the Astana Process”. A working group meeting between the guarantor countries, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, will discuss the solutions on the table. Furthermore, the high-level officials will also address the prospects of forming the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva under UN sponsorship.

16th Round of Astana Talks
The main session of the 16th round of the Astana Process on Syria in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on July 8, 2021.
High-Level officials at the 17th round of Astana talks on Syria

The Syrian government delegation is headed by Ayman Susan, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister. The head of the Syrian armed opposition is Ahmed Toma. For its part, the Russian president’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev will lead the Russian delegation. Moreover, the Turkish delegation is headed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Director-General for Syria Unal Selcuk. The Iranian delegation is headed by Ali Asghar Khaji, Special Assistant to Iran’s Foreign Minister for Special Political Affairs.

Additionally, UN officials, Jordan, and the International Committee of the Red Cross will participate as observers. The UN delegation will be represented by the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Khawla Matar.

Joint Statement: Official Declaration

Between the principal clauses and multiple topics of the Joint Statement on Syria in the Astana Format, the participants:

  1. Reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. As well, to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and highlighted that these principles should be universally respected and complied with;
  2. Expressed their determination to continue working together to combat terrorism in all forms and manifestations and stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria (…). Reiterated the necessity to further continue their ongoing cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Al-Nusra Front, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council (…);
  3. Reviewed in detail the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area, agreed to make further efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in and around the area. Highlighted the necessity to maintain calm on the ground by fully implementing all agreements on Idlib;
  4. Discussed the situation in northeast Syria and agreed that constant security and stability in this region can only be achieved on the basis of preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country (…);
  1. Condemned continuing Israeli military attacks in Syria which violate international law, international humanitarian law, the sovereignty of Syria and neighboring countries (…). Stressed that Israel’s abuses of civil aircraft as a cover in its aggressions on Syrian territory is a stark violation of international regulations, endangering the lives of civilians.
  2. Expressed their conviction that there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and reaffirmed their commitment to advance viable and lasting Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated political process in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254;
  3. Emphasized the important role of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, created as a result of the decisive contribution of the Astana guarantors and in furtherance of the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi;
  4. Noted the convening of the 6th round of the Drafting Commission of the Syrian Constitutional Committee between 18-22 October in Geneva and called for the holding of its 7th round as soon as possible with a constructive approach by the Syrian parties(…);
  5. Expressed the conviction that the Committee in its work should respect the Terms of Reference and Core Rules of Procedure to enable the Committee to implement its mandate (…) without foreign interference and externally imposed timelines aimed at reaching a general agreement of its members;
  6. Reiterated grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Syria and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which presents a profound challenge to the health system, socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Syria. Rejected all unilateral sanctions, which are in contravention of international law, international humanitarian law, and the UN Charter;
  7. Emphasized the need to eliminate the impediments and to increase humanitarian assistance to all Syrians throughout the country without discrimination (…);
  8. In order to support the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Syria and the progress in the process of the political settlement, called upon the international community, the United Nations, and its humanitarian agencies to enhance their assistance to the whole of Syria through early recovery and resilience projects including the restoration of basic infrastructure assets – water and power supply facilities, schools and hospitals as well as the humanitarian mine action in accordance with the international humanitarian law;
  9. Highlighted the need to facilitate the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their original places of residence in Syria in compliance with international humanitarian law, ensuring their right to return and right to be supported. In this regard, called upon the international community to provide the necessary assistance to Syrian refugees and IDPs and reaffirmed their readiness to continue interaction with all relevant parties, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other specialized international agencies;
  10. Welcomed the successful operation of the mutual release of detainees on 16 December within the framework of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies, and Identification of Missing Persons. The operation confirmed once again the willingness of Syrian parties to strengthen the mutual trust with the assistance of the Astana guarantors. It also reaffirmed the determination of the Astana guarantors to increase and expand their cooperation within the Working Group, which is a unique mechanism that proved to be effective and necessary for building confidence between the Syrian parties. Agreed that the scale of future operations on the release of detainees needs to be increased, and the activities of the Working Group – to be extended to the handover of bodies and identification of missing persons;
  11. Took note with appreciation the participation of delegations of Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon as observers of the Astana format as well as representatives of the United Nations and the ICRC;
  12. Expressed their sincere gratitude to the Kazakh authorities for hosting in Nur-Sultan the 17th International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format;
  13. Decided to convene the 18th International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format in Nur-Sultan in the first half of 2022 taking into consideration the pandemic situation. Reaffirmed their intention to arrange another ministerial meeting in the Astana format. Also recalled the Joint Statement of 1 July 2020 to hold the next Tripartite Summit in the Islamic Republic of Iran as soon as conditions permit.

The stakeholders reaffirmed their commitment to advance viable solutions to the end of the conflict. As well, to search for an UN-facilitated political process in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254.