03/16/2018, 10.14
SYRIA - KAZAKHSTAN
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Astana, diplomacy at work for a ceasefire. Evacuation of Ghouta east continues

Foreign ministers from Russia, Iran and Turkey meet in the capital of Kazakhstan. A preparatory meeting ahead of the presidents’ summit on April 4 in Istanbul. Yesterday 20 thousand people left the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus, besieged by the government army. At least 25 trucks loaded with aid for Douma.

Astana (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Foreign ministers from Russia, Turkey and Iran met this morning in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, in an attempt to revive the peace process in Syria, a nation tormented by a bloody conflict since March 2011.

Their efforts are concentrated on Eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus, the goal of an imposing Damascus army offensive, supported by Moscow.

In a note the Russian Foreign Minister states today’s talks will focus on "the situation on the ground" and "the successes and difficulties encountered in the de-escalation process" of the war. Today's summit will also serve to prepare the ground ahead of a meeting between presidents – Turkey’s  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iranian Hassan Rouhani - in Istanbul, Turkey, on 4 April.

The Astana meetings were the first to successfully gather government and opposition factions at the same table and  proved to be more decisive than the diplomatic efforts promoted by the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland). In one of these meetings, last May, the creation of "de-escalation of conflict" areas was envisaged, including a cease-fire, no fly zones, immediate provision of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees.

This new round of meetings, like the previous ones, is sponsored by Russia and Iran close to the Damascus and by Turkey which is close to the Syrian opposition.

In recent days, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have gained control of about 70% of the rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus. There is a huge civilian evacuation operation underway in the area, in particular of those requiring urgent medical treatment.

Sources of the London based NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – which is close to the rebel opposition - say that at least 20,000 civilians left Ghouta east yesterday alone. Local witnesses report women, men and children loaded with bags and blankets fleeing the town of Hamouria, which has been the subject of heavy bombing by the Syrian army in recent days. This is the most important exodus since the beginning of the government offensive, whose goal is to regain complete control of the area.

Also in these hours 25 trucks loaded with food, medicines and basic necessities entered Douma. The International Red Cross say it is only a small part of what is needed to meet the needs of about 390 thousand people. Turkey is also among those calling for an end to the siege in Eastern Ghouta, as it is close to the pro-Islamic rebel groups.  But Turkey is also the protagonist of an equally bloody siege in the north of Syria, in Afrin, to bend the resistance of the Kurds who control the area.

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