Russian presidential envoy Alexandr Lavrentyev says that moderate Syrian opposition makes "quite a large force" with possibilities to expand its presence in volatile Idlib, displacing radicals.

The 15th meeting of guarantors on Syria started in Sochi, Russia, on February 16, to discuss the political process and the fate of the Constitutional Committee talks.
The 15th meeting of guarantors on Syria started in Sochi, Russia, on February 16, to discuss the political process and the fate of the Constitutional Committee talks. (AA)

Russia's presidential envoy for Syria has said the war-torn Arab country's moderate opposition can contribute to easing tensions in the volatile Idlib region. 

The moderate group of the opposition makes "quite a large force," it has possibilities to expand its presence in Idlib, displacing radicals, Alexandr Lavrentyev said on Wednesday at a news conference in Sochi.

"It has the ability to ensure its stable presence in the Idlib de-escalation zone and to ensure, if not the destruction, then at least the squeezing out of the representatives of the radical groups that have formed there, outside the security zone. This would greatly help stabilise the situation," he said.

The opposition, in general, showed orientation for the search of compromises at the meeting in Sochi, Lavrentyev added.

READ MORE: Turkey, Iran, Russia urge Syrian peace process free of foreign interference

US 'plunders' Syria's resources

Meanwhile, progress is being made in the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, he noted.

"The parties have begun to talk to each other, though indirectly, really interesting ideas and proposals are put forward during consultations, which will be summarised in the future for making some decisions," he said.

Moscow expects that Geir Pedersen, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for Syria, will be able to persuade the parties to be more flexible in the negotiations, the diplomat said.

Turning to the US presence in Syria, he called it "illegal," saying Washington "plunders Syria's natural resources" by means of business companies.

"This is unacceptable, because it affects the Syrian people, who are deprived of the right to use the proceeds from oil production in their own interests, in the interests of the Syrian people," he said.

Lavrentyev expressed hope that US President Joe Biden's administration will revise the country's policy in Syria and will give up the line on maximum pressure.

READ MORE: “Astana fell into silence”: Why the deal failed to bring peace to Syria

Call for implementing deals in Sochi meet

Also on Wednesday, a two-day meeting of Turkey, Russia, and Iran ended in Sochi, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry saying, "the current situation in the political process within the context of the Constitutional Committee as well as the developments in Idlib and the east of Euphrates were mainly discussed."

The parties also reiterated commitment to maintaining calm on the ground by implementing deals on Idlib, northwestern Syria. 

"We emphasised our expectation of cessation of ceasefire violations and attacks targeting civilians," Turkey's statement said.

In a declaration issued following the meeting, the parties condemned the ongoing Israeli military attacks in Syria which violate international and humanitarian law and undermine the sovereignty of Syria and neighbouring countries.

They said the attacks also endanger the stability and security in the region and urged for an end to them.

Next meeting in Nur-Sultan

The meeting was also participated by delegations of Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon as observers of the Astana format, as well as the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The parties decided to hold the 16th round of the meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in mid-2021, according to the declaration.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee meetings, which started in October 2019 with 150 members, are the first concrete step to draft a new constitution to determine Syria's future.

The Astana peace process to end the Syrian conflict was launched in January 2017 at the initiative of Turkey, Russia, and Iran.

The meetings of Astana guarantors also contribute to the advancement of the UN-led diplomatic process in Geneva.

The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

READ MORE: Syria's territorial integrity a priority – Astana guarantors

Source: AA