21 Jun 2023 17:50

Syria talks in Astana format to look for new venue - Russian presidential rep

ASTANA. June 21 (Interfax) - Syria talks will continue in the Astana format, yet the sides will look for a new venue, Russian Special Presidential Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said.

"The Astana format is alive and will continue its effective work on a settlement in Syria. It is a different thing that we are grateful to the authorities of Kazakhstan for the opportunity to hold these meetings in Astana, in the Kazakh territory, since 2017. We appreciate that," Lavrentyev told reporters.

"If Kazakhstan decides, believes that the process should move to a more appropriate venue, we will hold consultations and choose a new one," he said.

According to him, the next meeting in the Astana format will be held in the second half of 2021 outside Kazakhstan.

"It could be Moscow, Tehran, Ankara or, maybe, Damascus. There will be territorial adjustments, but the format will keep working," he said.

Lavrentyev said later at a press conference that Kazakhstan's proposal to move the Astana-format talks to another venue was an unexpected development.

"To be honest, it took us slightly by surprise today - the initiative of the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan that they consider this platform of [the] Astana [format] in particular to have already hosted enough events," he said.

A decision on a new venue for holding multilateral meetings on Syria in the Astana format has not yet been made, but these meetings will continue, he said.

"I think that the leadership of our countries, the guarantor countries [Russia, Iran and Turkey], will consider this proposal and will adopt a coordinated decision on a venue for the next international meeting on Syria," Lavrentyev said.

This situation "should not discourage us in any way, [and] should not make us give up," he said.

"We still have a great deal to do in different areas. These areas are quite serious and require our close attention, support, [and] continuous consultations at various levels, [including at] the expert level, the ministerial level and also the presidential level. All this work will certainly continue," Lavrentyev said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kazakhstan proposed that the current round of Syria talks in the Astana format be declared the final one.

"Syria's gradual emergence from regional isolation could be interpreted as a sign that the Astana process has honorably accomplished its mission. Given Syria's return to the Arab family, we propose that the 20th round of Syria talks be declared the last one in the Astana process," Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Kanat Tumysh said at a plenary meeting on Tuesday.