Astana talks: Regime blames Turkey for rebels’ boycott, Russia surprised

Syria: Can Russia press on the regime to over ceasefire and peace talks?

Assad regime accused Turkey of breaking its commitments to peace settlement as Ankara-backed rebel groups boycotted the third round of meetings in Astana, while Russia said it was surprised by the incident.

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.

Rebels blame Moscow for not exerting pressure on its ally, the Syrian government, to stop bombarding civilians in rebel-held areas or to adhere to the cease-fire.

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.

Blames for Turkey

regime representative Bashar al-Ja’afari said in Astana on Tuesday the rebels’s refusal came after commcnds 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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the rebels’ explanation as “unconvincing,” and said that the decision to boycott came as a surprise for Moscow.

explanation as “unconvincing,” and said that the decision to boycott came as a surprise for Moscow.

“We are currently looking into this unexpected development,” Lavrov said. “I have spoken to my Turkish colleague (Foreign Minister Mevlut) Cavusolgu yesterday. Our Ministry of Defense is also using its own channels to contact Turkey and commanders of the opposition factions,” he said.

Russia has “reasons to believe that this is a misunderstanding, after all,” he added.

The Kremlin spokesman described the talks as hugely complex. “Sometimes the situation at these talks is really complicated because of substantial differences in approaches of various countries,” Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call.

Alexander Lavrentiev, the head of the Russian delegation in Astana, told reporters the opposition’s absence was “sad” but there was still “many things to discuss and make decisions about”.

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.