Syria: Astana settlement talks end without meeting goals

Syria: Astana settlement talks to start on Tuesday

Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan have closed on Wednesday without any substantive negotiations taking place after regime’s delegation refused to discuss a constitutional commission and the rebels boycotted the talks due to ceasefire breaches.

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.

Third Astana meeting

The talks were hindered before they start, as the rebels decided to boycott them due to Assad regime’s crimes against the civilians despite the ceasefire.

The only concrete outcome from the third round of talks in Astana was an agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran, who are sponsoring the negotiations, to meet again in early May, according to a joint statement.

The next round of talks will take place on 3-4 May, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov said on Wednesday.

In a closing statement, Kamaldinov said: “What is important is that the ceasefire is still holding and the Geneva meetings are talking place without overt hostility or derailment of the talks.”

Alexander Lavrentiev, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters that a proposal to set up commission to draft a new Syrian constitution had been discussed. This was swiftly denied by Syria’s lead negotiator.

“We did not discuss this at all,” Bashar al Ja’afari, head of the Syrian government delegation, told reporters.

Jaafari said the only document the Syrian government delegation had discussed with Russia was related to de-mining cultural heritage sites.

Al-Jaafari said in Astana on Tuesday the rebels’ refusal came after commands from the “master.”

“When one of the three guarantors breaks their commitment – and I mean Turkey – this means that Turkey must be one that is asked about the non-attendance or participation of these armed groups,” said Bashar al-Ja’afari, Damascus’ chief representative at the Astana peace talks.

He added that the absence of opposition would not affect the summit.

“We are not here to meet the delegation of the armed groups; we are here to meet with our allies from Russia and Iran and show our commitment when it comes to the Astana talks,” he told reporters.

Rebel factions to arrive later

Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said that a rebel delegation was expected to arrive in Astana on Wednesday. A rebel official confirmed that a “technical delegation” was on its way but said it was not a negotiating team.

Meanwhile, Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said some of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian delegates would remain in Astana for meetings with rebels.

A representative from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said the rebel group will be sending five officers to the peace talks on Wednesday night for consultations at an expert level.

The Syrian opposition had previously said it would skip the talks and accused Moscow of failing to uphold a ceasefire brokered last December.

“Representatives of the southern and northern fronts [of the Syrian armed opposition] are expected to arrive tonight,” a spokesman for the Khazakh foreign ministry said.

“They will hold consultations tomorrow with experts from the guarantor countries [Russia, Turkey, Iran] on the observation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.”

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.