Russia, Turkey, and Iran Make Deal to Back Syria Ceasefire

In a statement after the sessions closed, Syria's ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Ja'afari, who led the government delegation to the talks in Astana, says the offensive by the government and allied troops on Wadi Baradi would continue as long as "terrorist groups" controlled the main water supply to Damascus.

Russian-led talks on Syria ended with agreement Tuesday to bolster a cease-fire even as apparent disputes with Iran, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, threaten to hold up efforts to end the six-year civil war.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a phone conversation discussed the negotiations on Syria, underway in the Kazakh capital of Astana, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a message.

Amid deteriorating relations with the Obama administration over a failed peace effort in September, Russia seized the diplomatic initiative after its forces helped Assad to expel rebel fighters from Aleppo, once Syria's largest city, last month - a turning point in a war that's killed more than 300,000.

The Syrians at the talks were also not party to the agreement and were not asked to sign on to it, underscoring the extent to which their fate is now being decided by the outside powers that have been their benefactors in the war.

"But they are finding a lot of obstacles from Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah forces, Iran and the regime", he added. "Things remain unclear", the FSA commander said.

Only once the cease-fire is fully respected will the opposition take part in talks in Geneva planned by the United Nations next month, he said.


"We presented a scheme for mechanisms to monitor and implement the ceasefire", Abu Zaid said during a press briefing shortly after the joint statement was made.

He told reporters that the deal paves the way for more dialogue among Syrians in the future.

The talks in Astana, which started on Monday, saw delegates from the warring sides spar over different interpretations of the December 30 ceasefire brokered by Russian Federation and Turkey, as their respective regional backers met behind closed doors to keep the meeting on track. Jaafari said that Iran "played a positive role in facilitating reaching this final formula that is expressed in the final declaration". "The opposition asked that those groups leave Syria in return of a possibility of fighting Jubhat Fatah al-Sham, a suggestion that was rejected by Iran", the sources said. They started in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Monday.

While the first day of talks featured the first time that representatives from both the Syrian Government and opposition factions sat at one table for the opening, both sides refused direct negotiations and proceeded to accuse each other of undermining the talks.

Mohammed Alloush, the chief rebel negotiator, who's from the Army of Islam, told reporters that the main goal of the talks was to "stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people". "We will not proceed to the next phases until this actually happens on the ground".

Mr Ja'afari accused insurgents of using the water as a weapon but the rebels deny al-Qaeda-linked is in the area, and have negotiated to include it in the ceasefire agreement.

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed upon an agenda to help settle the Syrian crisis earlier in a trilateral meeting held in Moscow on December 20 and the Resolution 2336 was adopted by UNSC on Dec. 31 to support an inclusive ceasefire in Syria and the political process.

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