Iran’s Zarif in Sochi to discuss regional issues with Russian officials

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has traveled to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to exchange views with Russian officials on regional developments.

Zarif arrived in Sochi on Wednesday and is expected to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, among other officials.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Tuesday that Zarif’s discussions would focus on the current situation in the Middle East, particularly Syria.

“The talks will center round everything that concerns the Middle East, Syria, the situation in the region in general,” he told Russia’s TASS news agency.

Bogdanov also noted that his country has “close contacts with the Iranians, on-going consultations on all issues, including concerning the situation in Iraq, in the [Persian] Gulf, on counter-terrorism efforts.”

Consultations ahead of Astana talks

In a relevant development on Wednesday, a working group of the three countries acting as guarantors of a ceasefire in Syria, namely Iran, Russia and Turkey, began consultations in Astana, in the run-up to the sixth round of the intra-Syrian talks in the Kazakh capital.

“This Astana meeting is widely expected to be a huge success, to finalize the whole Astana process since January. A lot of work has been done at the expert level and the highest political level, to reach a final agreement on the whole package of documents, on all de-escalation zones,” a source close to the Astana talks told Russia’s Sputnik news agency.

Late last month, Zarif and Lavrov held a phone conversation over the resolution of the Syria crisis based on the agreements made during the peace talks in Astana.

The Astana discussions have brought representatives from the government in Damascus and opposition groups to the negotiating table in a bid to end the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which broke out in March 2011.

Five rounds of the negotiations took place on January 23-24, February 15-16, March 14-15, May 3-4 and July 4-5.

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