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Turkish FM says Astana talks achieved progress, criticizes US envoy’s remarks

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Any progress in efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis was achieved thanks to the Astana and Sochi talks while the Geneva process is in a stalemate, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday, noting that remarks made by a US envoy questioning the Astana process were “unfortunate,” the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

“It is a wrongful statement. The statement by Jeffrey is unfortunate. I don’t think those were his own thoughts,” Çavuşoğlu told a group of journalists, elaborating on the US Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey’s suggestion to end the Astana talks on Syria.

“If the cease-fire in Syria is still preserved, even despite the violations, if today we can still talk about a political process, if we can discuss the constitutional committee … they have been achieved thanks to the Astana process and Sochi [talks],” he said.

“Turkey never allowed Astana and Sochi to become alternatives to the Geneva process; international legitimacy is very crucial,” he said. “But nothing happened in Geneva, no steps were taken [in Geneva] on the issues I referred to, not even a real meeting,” he added.

“If we have been able to come to this point, it was thanks to this process,” Çavuşoğlu said, noting that efforts should be made for a contribution similar to the four-way summit of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, instead of trying to isolate the Astana process, the minister said.

Turkey and Russia would not have been able to make a deal to circumvent an operation into Syria’s rebel-held Idlib if the Astana process was not maintained, he added.

“The US view is ‘Let’s pull the plug on Astana’,” Jeffrey had said at a briefing in Washington on Dec. 3, claiming that the Astana process guarantors — Russia, Turkey and Iran — have failed to advance efforts for a Syrian constitutional committee.

Jeffrey said the US would propose ending the competitor to the Geneva talks when UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura departs his seat at the end of the year.

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