Syria: Rebel factions not to attend Astana meeting on Tuesday

Syria: Rebel factions not to attend Astana meeting on Tuesday
Syrian rebels' delegation to the second round of Syria settlement talks in Astana

Syrian rebels representatives said they will not attend the third round of Syria settlement talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, due to ceasefire violations and Russia’s failure to preserve its commitments.

Russia said it has a new plan for Syria peace talks which can be achieved with powers that have a real effect on the Syrian ground after its forces backed Assad regime to achieve many victories against the opposition and tilted the tide of war in his favor.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey said they were ready to help broker a Syria peace deal, and organized peace talks meeting in Kazakhstan on January 23.

The talks have ended with Russia, Turkey, and Iran making a joint statement about the consequences of the talks and agreeing on a mechanism to support a delicate ceasefire and to support a new round of peace talks in Geneva.

The second round of Astana talks was held in Kazakhstan’s capital on February 15-16. On Wednesday, Russian, Iranian, Jordanian and Syrian delegations held a number of technical meetings.

However, the meeting ended without a final statement because the opposition refused to sign it.

The Opposition refused to discuss any other issues such as the constitution, holding elections or any other political issues, Alloush pointed out adding that “negotiations about ceasefire mechanisms will be taken to Ankara,” without specifying any date or giving further details.

At the end of the meeting, Russian ministry of foreign affairs declared that a number of issues have been agreed upon to de-escalate the situation in Syria, including creating a strict mechanism to monitor the ceasefire by forming a trilateral Russian, Turkish and Iranian committee.

Rebels will not participate

The Syrian rebel factions will not attend a new round of negotiations with government figures in the Kazakh capital, according to various rebel representatives.

Colonel Ahmad Othman, who heads the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad rebel brigade, said it was awaiting a Russian response to a letter that demands Moscow acts as a guarantor and ends violations of a ceasefire brokered last December by Russia and Turkey.

“Nothing has been implemented so far,” said Othman, complaining of Russian strikes on civilians and assaults by the Syrian army in rebel-held areas.

“Moscow has not lived up to its commitments. The main demand is stopping the bombardment and displacement of people,” Othman added.

Osama Abu Zeid, an opposition delegation spokesman, told AFP on Monday the same.

“Rebel groups have decided not to participate in Astana,” said Osama Abu Zeid, saying one reason for the boycott was “unfulfilled pledges related to the cessation of hostilities.”

“We decided not to participate in Astana because the reinforcement of the ceasefire was not implemented,” said Ahmad Othman, commander of the Ankara-backed Sultan Murad rebel group.

“The regime and the militias are continuing to bomb, displace, and besiege,” he told AFP on Monday, saying rebel groups had informed the talks’ sponsors of their decision.

“They aim to disrupt the talks”

According to Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the government’s delegation was scheduled to arrive in Astana on Monday.

The delegation will be headed once again by Syria’s representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, who has also led the government’s representatives in parallel UN-backed talks in Geneva.

However, Regime’s delegation is expected to use the rebels’ absence as a card and accuse them again of seeking to undermine the political efforts.

Bashar Jaafari, has accused the Syrian rebels in the last Astana meeting of trying to disrupt the negotiations by refusing to agree to a communique.

Bashar Ja’afari said on February 15 that the rebels and their Turkish backers had a “clear will to disrupt the Astana meetings”, and that Ankara must pull its troops out of Syria and close its border to jihadist fighters if it was to be a real guarantor of a Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreed at the end of last year.

“No final communique was issued because of Turkish opposition to a draft statement,” Ja’afari said.

The arrival of a downgraded Turkish delegation with the rebels on the last day of the talks in the Kazakh capital also signaled that they were not serious about the talks, he said.

“The delegation came with a low representation that does not rise up to what Turkey claims as a guarantor … and so the Turkish role prompts many question marks over it,” he said.

Ja’afari said Turkey must take decisive steps to stop “foreign jihadists” entering Syrian and end its violation of Syrian sovereignty by pulling its troops out if the ceasefire was to take hold on the ground.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.