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Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri (2nd L) attending a meeting of the mini-international group on Syria that took place in Belgium early Thursday.

FM joins meeting on Syria in Belgium

Thu, July 12, 2018 21:54

CAIRO, July 12, 2018 - Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri attended a meeting of the mini-international group on Syria that took place in Belgium early Thursday.

The top diplomats of Britain, the US, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan attended the meeting, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said.

Egypt was invited for the first time to the group's meeting in appreciation of the efforts it had been exerting to support the political settlement in Syria, Abu Zeid said.

Egypt also has opened communication channels with all Syrian parties involved in the stalemate, the spokesman said, citing Egypt's role in unifying the Syrian opposition factions and resuming political negotiations.

The talks tackled means of pushing forward the political settlement and the importance of releasing a call by United Nations envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to hold the first meeting of the constitution-wording committee as a first step for resuming talks, which were suspended six months ago.

During the meeting, Shoukri reviewed Egypt's efforts to push forward a settlement of the Syrian crisis.

He underlined the importance of a swift political solution to the crisis, saying that this solution should maintain the unity of the Syrian lands and prevent foreign interference.

FM Shoukri highlighted the importance of maintaining the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group (Daesh) to deprive the group of the chance to find safe havens in the region, especially in North Africa or the Sahel and Sahara.

The Syrian government raised the national flag Thursday over areas of Deraa city that have been in rebel hands for years, a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the birthplace of the revolt against his rule.

State television said the army hoisted the flag near the post office, the only government building in the portion of the city that had been held by rebels since the early days of the uprising that began there in 2011 with large protests.

Government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have recovered swathes of Deraa province in the last three weeks, advancing unopposed by Assad’s Western and regional foes into the strategically vital region near Jordan and Israel.

It marks another milestone in Assad’s efforts to recover control of Syria, where civil war is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven some 11 million people from their homes.

The campaign in the southwest is now expected to target rebel-held enclaves at the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel signaled it would not impede the offensive, even as it struck Syrian army posts near the frontier in retaliation for a drone incursion.

With critical help from Russia and Iran, Assad has now recovered most of Syria. Anti-Assad rebels still control a chunk of the northwest, and the northeast and a large chunk of the east are controlled by Kurdish-led militia.

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