Russia’s Foreign Ministry has set priorities of discussions on the agenda of the Astana negotiations scheduled for April 25-26.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received Friday a Russian delegation headed by President Vladimir Putin's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev where they discussed the upcoming Astana meeting on Syria, the constitutional committee, and mechanisms to launch a fruitful political process.
A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry on the course of the visit revealed that Moscow intends to pay special attention during Astana to reach a solution on the formation of the constitutional committee, as well as pushing the course of the exchange of prisoners, and determine the fate of the missing persons.
Moscow agreed with its partners in Astana talks, Turkey and Iran, to hold a special meeting for the committee to exchange prisoners at the presence of the UN representatives, as well as members of the Syrian government and opposition.
Despite repeated talks that issues relating to the return of refugees and reconstruction will be on the meetings’ agenda, it seems that Russian official statements focused more on the issue of forming the constitutional committee and attempts to make progress on the humanitarian situation.
The Foreign Ministry indicated that Lavrentiev discussed with Assad the issues of ensuring a long-term political settlement in accordance with the decisions of the Syrian national dialogue congress and UNSC Resolution 2254.
The Ministry indicated that special attention in this regard was paid to the task of promptly forming and launching the work of the constitutional committee.
“Post-conflict reconstruction and normalization of Syria's relations with Arab countries were also discussed,” according to the statements.
Moscow announced during the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum it will continue to exert all needed efforts to urge Arab parties to normalize relations with Damascus and bring Syria back into the Arab League.
The Forum avoided referring to Syria’s return in its final statement, which reflected the Arab adherence to the previous position on linking normalization with Damascus to the development of a political settlement.
The Syrian presidency published the details of the meeting between Assad and Lavrentiev who chaired a delegation including Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and the accompanying officials.
The meeting dealt with the importance of continuous coordination “between the two sides regarding the raised issues to come out with positive results that achieve aspirations of the Syrian people, on top of which is the elimination of terrorism and the restoration of security and stability to all Syrian territory.”
Moscow has invited UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen to attend the next round of Astana talks, but it is noteworthy that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sharply criticized the United Nations and warned them against engaging in attempts by Western parties to undermine the path of Astana.
Observers interpreted this that Moscow is likely sensing negative position from the UN on suggestions from Russia, Turkey, and Iran regarding the formation of the constitutional committee.
Lavrov noted that UN is merely a mediator and an observer in accordance with the decisions of the Sochi dialogue, adding that it should not interfere in the formation of the committee by imposing conditions on the involved parties.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and met with Assad and discussed Moscow’s efforts to help the Middle Eastern country’s economic revival at a meeting in Damascus on Saturday.
Borisov and Assad discussed trade and economic cooperation, “particularly in the fields of energy, industry and increasing trade.”
Sana news agency said Assad and Borisov discussed mechanisms to overcome obstacles including those “resulting from the sanctions which countries against the Syrian people imposed on Syria.”
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