US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey arrived in Turkey on Wednesday with an accompanying delegation to discuss the latest efforts to resolve the now nine-year Syrian conflict. 

Jeffrey’s plane landed at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport at 7.00 p.m. (1600GMT) from Geneva.

“We have exciting developments on the Syrian account,” Jeffrey told reporters at the airport.

Underlining that the Syrian Constitutional Committee’s third round of meetings had begun in Geneva, Jeffrey said: “It was a good start, much helped by Turkey’s encouragement of all members of the Constitutional Committee, particularly the opposition.”

Jeffrey said that though the coronavirus tests of some members of the committee are yet to come in, he was hopeful that the body would continue to move on the political path and not stop progress.

“The military phase of this conflict needs to end. There is no more ground to be gained by the regime. The regime needs to return to the negotiating table and deal with the rest of the international community. That’s our priority,” he said, adding that he would discuss these issues with Turkish officials during his visit.

Referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks on Tuesday said the US had sided with terrorist organizations instead of its NATO ally Turkey, Jeffrey said that the US is “a close ally of Turkey. We proved our value in many fields outside of Syria.”

He reminded that on Oct. 17, 2019 — the ninth day of Turkey’s cross-border anti-terror Peace Spring Operation — a US delegation had arrived in Ankara and reached an agreement with Turkey on its efforts in northern Syria. “We are working to ensure that is maintained. We have very close coordination on Idlib and on the political process and we will continue to do exactly what we’re doing.”

“Syria is a major security and geopolitical threat for its all neighbors, beginning with Turkey. Turkey must be at the table in any resolution of this conflict,” he added.

Previously, the US State Department had said Jeffrey would gather with senior Turkish officials in Ankara to discuss the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 for the resolution of the Syrian conflict, efforts to defeat ISIS/DAESH, and other forms of bilateral cooperation related to the stability of Syria and the region.

Jeffrey also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal on Wednesday, who held talks in Geneva, as part of the Syrian Constitutional Committee’s third round of meetings.

During their meeting, Jeffrey and Onal discussed the political process in Syria, how to support the work of the Constitutional Committee, the situation in Idlib and the maintenance of the cease-fire in the field.

Syria has been mired in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures. Turkey hosts more than 4 million Syrians as the top refugee-hosting country in the world.

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