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Turkey, Russia, Iran to form working group on Syria

TURKEY, RUSSIA, IRAN TO FORM WORKING GROUP ON SYRIA

Turkey, Russia and Iran will establish a joint working group on de-escalation zones in Syria, Kazakhstan's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Kairat Abdrakhmanov's remarks came during a news conference following the final day of the fifth round of Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Reading a joint statement from the three guarantor countries, Abdrakhmanov said the trio expressed their satisfaction with the progress in the delineation of the de-escalation areas in the war-stricken country, which was agreed at the previous round of Astana talks on May 4.

"They instructed the Joint Working Group to finalize the operational and technical modalities of all de-escalation areas," Abdrakhmanov said, adding the next meeting of the group would be held in Iran on Aug. 1 and 2.

Turkey, Russia and Iran emphasized "the need for all parties in Syria to take confidence-building measures to contribute to the viability of political process and lasting ceasefire," the Kazakh minister said.

The trio also stressed the need to ensure "rapid, safe and unhindered" humanitarian access to areas affected by the ongoing conflict, he said, adding the sixth round of Astana talks would be held during the last week of August.

Following a Dec. 30 cease-fire, the first round of Astana talks was held on Jan. 23-24, brokered by Turkey -- which backs the opposition -- and Russia and Iran, which support the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and in excess of 10 million displaced, according to the UN.

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