Iran, Russia, Turkey meet UN Syria envoy

Geneva – High-level diplomats from Iran, Russia and Turkey were meeting Tuesday with the UN envoy for Syria about creating a committee to revise the war-battered country’s constitution.

The talks in Geneva under UN envoy Staffan de Mistura come amid concerns that he and other UN officials have expressed about a looming battle for northern Idlib province – the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria after more than seven years of war that is now home to some 3 million civilians.

Hussain Jaberi Ansari, a special envoy for Iran’s foreign minister, said a “good result” could emerge from the talks.

Asked whether Iran shared concerns about a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, Jaberi Ansari replied: “We are worried too. We we are trying to avoid this.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, declined to answer a question on his way into the talks about whether Russia would stop its air strikes.

De Mistura met informally with members of the three delegations on Monday.

The talks are set to focus on creating a constitutional committee under Syria’s Russian- and Iranian-backed regime. Russia, Turkey and Iran have been working together as “guarantors” for a series of talks around ending Syria’s war. Turkey has taken in 3.5 million refugees from its neighbour.

On Monday, air strikes on Idlib and Hama provinces forced some people to flee their homes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, a US-backed Syrian fighting force said Tuesday it has begun the final stage of its campaign to clear Daesh from northeast Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said it launched operations on Monday to expel Daesh from the town of Hajin and surrounding villages on the northeast banks of the Euphrates River.

The SDF is supported by the US-led international coalition against Daesh.

The coalition said in a statement it was supporting the SDF ground operation with air and artillery strikes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said coalition jets bombed locations across the Daesh pocket in conjunction with the SDF ground offensive. At least 23 Daesh fighters were killed in the first 24 hours of battle, according to the Observatory.

Despite losing 90 per cent of its territory between Iraq and Syria since its 2014 peak, Daesh remains a disruptive force in both countries and its leader, the self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, urged followers to “persevere” in an audio tape attributed to him last month.

Also, a Daesh ambush killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida, the Observatory said. a Britain-based war monitor said on Tuesday.

The attack occurred late Monday in the rural Tulul Al Safa area of the province, some 100 kilometres southeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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