By Diyar Guldogan
The United Nations firmly supports the Astana initiative on Syria, UN Special Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura said Thursday.
"We strongly support the initiative of Astana," De Mistura was quoted as saying by Russia's official TASS news agency after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Kazakhstan's capital Astana Thursday is hosting another intra-Syrian peace talks with representatives of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, who agreed last month to create a cease-fire monitoring group.
The January meeting in Astana saw the three countries agree to a trilateral mechanism for observing and ensuring compliance with a cease-fire which came into effect on Dec. 30.
De Mistura told reporters that his talks with Lavrov were "very useful," TASS reported.
He also confirmed that a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva will begin next week, on Feb. 23.
"We need to increase efforts in the political process," said de Mistura, according to TASS.
In opening remarks before the closed-door meeting, Lavrov said Russia supports the efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement.
Lavrov said Russia has tried to help reach an agreement with its Turkish and Iranian counterparts for a cease-fire between the Syrian government and opposition.
"We also attempted to stimulate the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, promoting a political aspect to the Astana meeting," Lavrov added.
He said that is why Russia presented a draft Syrian constitution, adding: “Of course, is not mandatory."
"But we believe that this project could be considered an incentive for real, genuine negotiations between all Syrians," he said.
De Mistura, Shoigu meet
During his visit to Moscow, de Mistura also met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Shoigu said Russia hopes participants at the Syria talks in Geneva are there to solve issues, not engage in debate, Russia's Interfax news agency reported Thursday.
He also said Russia expects the UN to facilitate humanitarian aid to Syria and eliminate obstacles.
De Mistura presented Shoigu a "roadmap" for delivering humanitarian aid to Syria, according to Interfax.
He said the UN saw a reduction in the scope of violence in Syria following an agreement between Russia and Turkey, adding: "This is very good news."