Third prisoner swap carried out between Assad regime, Syrian rebels: Ankara

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A Syrian rebel-fighter from The National Liberation Front (NLF) takes position in a trench armed with an automatic rifle on a hill in the area of Al-Eis in the southwest of Aleppo province, overlooking regime-held territory several kilometres (miles) away, on October 7, 2018. Turkish-backed rebels said today they expected to finish withdrawing heavy weapons from a planned buffer zone in northwestern Syria within days under a deal to stave off a regime attack. / AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Turkey’s foreign ministry said a third prisoner swap between the Assad government and Syria’s armed rebels was completed on Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“Several persons detained by the opposition groups and the regime were mutually and simultaneously released on April 22, 2019 with the activities of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Nine prisoners were exchanged from each side, according to Anadolu reporters on the ground.

The swap took place in Abu al Zindeen, south of the opposition-controlled town of al-Bab in northern Syria, as part of the third project of a working group established as part of the Astana process.

The statement stressed that the working group made up of Turkey, Russia, Iran and the UN would continue its activities to recover civilians and prisoners on both sides of the Syrian conflict.

The exchange comes in the runup to the 12th international high-level meeting on Syria as part of the Astana process, set for April 25-26.

Turkey, Russia and Iran serve as guarantor states in the Astana peace process.

Although initial prisoner swaps were carried out last November and this February, some half a million people are still thought to be languishing in Syrian regime prisons.

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