By Murat Karadag
Iran hosted a tripartite meeting this week -- also attended by Turkish and Russian officials -- to discuss means of finding a political solution in Syria, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.
Held on April 18 and 19, the meeting discussed the “implementation of the ceasefire in Syria and the recent prisoner exchange" between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
Along with Turkish, Russian and Iranian representatives, the meeting was also attended by an expert from the UN, the statement noted.
Representatives of the three countries -- all of whom serve as guarantors to the Syria truce -- plan to meet again on May 2 to prepare for a fresh round of Syria talks in Astana early next month.
A first round of talks, sponsored by Turkey and Russia, was held in Astana in January. The meeting was also attended by Iranian, U.S. and Syrian regime officials, along with representatives of the Syrian opposition.
Attendees discussed means of consolidating a Syria ceasefire hammered out last December in Turkish capital Ankara.
A second round of talks was held in Astana in February, with Russia, Iran and Turkey agreeing to establish a mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire. These talks, however, concluded without any breakthroughs.
A third round of Astana talks wrapped up in mid-March with the same three countries agreeing to set up a tripartite committee tasked with monitoring the Syria truce.
Negotiations in the Kazakh capital have continued to run in parallel with more formal UN-backed peace talks in Geneva.
Late last month, more than 100 civilians were killed and 500 others -- mostly children -- were injured in a chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province allegedly carried out by the Assad regime.
Last year, a UN-appointed fact-finding committee found that chemical weapons had been used in Syria in 2014 and 2015 by both regime forces and armed opposition groups.
The committee’s findings, however, did not lead to any steps being taken.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed in the conflict and millions more displaced, according to UN figures.