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Diplomats from Iran, Russia and Turkey meet UN envoy on Syria

The talks in Geneva come amid concerns about a looming battle for northern Idlib province.

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Russia’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, Pool)

High-level diplomats from Iran, Russia and Turkey are meeting the UN envoy for Syria about creating a committee to revise the war-battered country’s constitution.

The talks in Geneva, under UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, come amid concerns about a looming battle for northern Idlib province — the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria after seven years of war, which is home to three million civilians.

Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a special envoy for Iran’s foreign minister, said a “good result” could emerge from the talks.

Asked whether Iran shared concerns about a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, he replied: “We are worried too. We we are trying to avoid this.”

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Hossein Jaberi Ansari arrives for the talks (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, declined to answer a question on his way into the talks about whether Russia would stop its air strikes.

Mr de Mistura met members of the three delegations informally on Monday.

The talks are set to focus on creating a constitutional committee under Syria’s Russian and Iranian-backed government.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have been working together as “guarantors” for a series of talks around ending Syria’s war. Turkey has taken in 3.5 million refugees from its neighbour.

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Smoke rising from a Syrian government air strike in Hobeit village (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

On Monday, air strikes on Idlib and Hama provinces forced some people to flee their homes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Tuesday, a monitoring group said 21 pro-government gunmen had been killed in clashes with the Islamic State group in southern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighters died in clashes with the militants on Monday night in the Safaa region in the Syrian desert.

Government forces backed by local and regional militias have been battling the militants for weeks in the countryside north of Sweida since the militants ambushed the city and its surrounds in July.

The militants are holding 30 civilians captive since kidnapping them in the assault. They are believed to be holding them in the Safaa area.

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Russia’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, Pool)
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Hossein Jaberi Ansari arrives for the talks (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/AP)
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Smoke rising from a Syrian government air strike in Hobeit village (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)