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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

From the talks in Astana waiting to consolidate Syrian truce

Future of Assad is one of the main stumbling blocks in the beginning of the Astana inter-Syrian negotiations. The delegation Damascus is ready to talk with anyone who “wishes to work in the interests of the people” and fight against ISIS and “al-Nusra”. The opposition is much less friendly, which is confirmed by the American media. Whether the long-awaited talks organized by Russia, Turkey and Iran, to bring Syria out of the impasse?

The aim of inter-Syrian talks in Astana “is a consolidation of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities, except in those areas where there are terrorist organizations like DAISH (the Arabic name “Islamic state”) or “al-Nusra Dzhebhat” and other armed groups that have not signed an agreement”, said on Monday arrived in Astana the head of the delegation of the Syrian government, Bashar ja’afari.

“Tehran is in favour of keeping Assad as President “forever”, Turkey softened its stance, but Russia acts as a moderator”

In Damascus I hope that the result of the talks will be securing the cessation of hostilities. It is expected that following the agreement of the opposition “organizations wishing to operate in the interests of the people”, separate from ISIS* and “An-Nusra”.

In the meeting, we will remind, take part seven delegations: the government and the opposition Syria, the countries – guarantors of the agreement on ceasefire from Dec 29 – Russia, Turkey and Iran, a team of special envoy of the UN Secretary General to Syria Staffan de Mistura and the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol in the capacity of observer. As informs RIA “news”, de Mistura and the representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran have already arrived in Astana.

Opposition “represent themselves”

As the representative of the host country, the Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Roman Vasilenko, in Astana, representatives of about a dozen Syrian opposition groups. “These are organizations that generally supported the ceasefire achieved at the end of December, with the active assistance of Russia and Turkey”, – said the Deputy head of the Kazakh foreign Ministry. As such, the head of delegation no. “The powers to represent the entire Syrian opposition, no man was endowed with. They represent themselves and coordinate their positions,” – said Vasilenko.

Recall, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he agreed with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposal to the conflicting parties in Syria to continue the process of peace talks in Astana. According to Putin, the new site can complement the Geneva talks.

The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev supported the initiative and expressed readiness to provide a platform for such negotiations in Astana, “because Kazakhstan has an equal relationship of trust with all the participants of the meeting”. The President of Kazakhstan on Monday morning held a meeting with de Mistura, who stressed that the parties to the negotiations are working hard on arrangements.

Assad remains a “red line”

Meanwhile, it is still not clear whether Astana direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict in Syria, said Vasilenko. The Syrian opposition has already stated that they will not discuss the future of President Bashar al-Assad, told Al Jazeera. Thus, the adviser of the Higher Committee on negotiations (CPSU) Yahya al-Aridi told the newspaper that Assad remains “a red line” for the opposition, “there is no context for discussion no.”

However, in his opinion, Assad in power – “a recipe for further tragedy”. “If he is able to carry on his shoulders the deaths of half a million people, then he can stay. However, the situation doesn’t work that way,” – said Aridi. “If the Syrian regime believes that our presence in Astana says that we give up is a profound mistake,” he added to Reuters. Aridi explained that arrived at the talks to strengthen the cease-fire. Also, the rebels would secure the release of prisoners held in the territories controlled by the Assad government, the lifting of the blockade in “besieged areas” and ensure civilian access to humanitarian assistance.

The opposition accuses Russia

Meanwhile, representatives of the other groups said that they refuse to participate in negotiations because of Assad. So, Yasser al-Yousef, a political leader of the group “Nur al-DIN al-Zinki” (involved in the fighting in Aleppo) said he would not participate in the negotiations. “All the efforts of Russia on the Syrian settlement are reduced to the support of the Assad regime,” – said the head of the opposition groups in comments to The Wall Street Journal.

What made the army of Syria with the help of Russian troops (infographic)”the Rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Assad and each other can undermine the success of any agreement. Some of them said that they would not participate in the meetings in Kazakhstan”, – said the American edition.

“The future of President Assad is one of the main stumbling blocks that led to the failure of all previous efforts to end the six-year war in Syria,” said Al Jazeera.

Other rebel spokesmen have stressed the need for negotiations. “At this stage we have one goal, which was agreed between all the negotiating parties. That is to consolidate the ceasefire. That’s why we came here,” said Al Jazeera and the representative of the “Free Syrian army” Osama Abu Zeid. He added that his delegation has already met with Turkish officials on Sunday to discuss the agenda of the talks. In comments to Reuters, he expressed the hope that Russia will curb the militias, backed by Iran. “Either Russia succeeds in this task and be a real guarantor of, or the agreement on the ceasefire will cease to exist”, – he stressed.

“Iran adheres to zealous position”

Political scientist, expert on the Middle East, Taymūr Dwidar reminded in comments the newspaper VIEW that consultations between Russia, Iran and Turkey were ongoing extremely difficult. “We see a conflict, or, to put it mildly, a misunderstanding between Russia and Iran and, surprisingly, literally the Union of Russia and Turkey in Syria,” – said the expert.

Who is friends with whom and the war in Syria and Iraq, According to Guidara, Russian-Turkish consensus reflected in the joint military operations, so, in fact, in the joint initiatives on the cease-fire and negotiations in Astana.

“Tehran, apparently because of Iranian mentality adheres to zealous positions: he advocates the need to preserve Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria literally “for ever”, although in the course of the same negotiations in Geneva stipulated more than once that during the transition period had to be achieved for some compromise. Turkey, on the other hand, softened its stance on Assad, and Russia acts more as a moderator”, – explained the analyst.

The Syrian opposition may receive a bright leader

In General, the Taymūr Didar believes that Astana will be affected by many important and still not finalised issues: in particular, the issue of monitoring the ceasefire in Syria and the consequences of violation of this regime.

“Besides, I don’t doubt that Astana will give a Foundation not only for military but for political settlement of the conflict. And may be even the alternative to Geneva. The fact that Geneva is always going to have too many actors, which is clearly not conducive to the settlement of the conflict in the foreseeable future. In Astana the negotiating table sat only the representatives do, in real life the conflicting and warring parties – from both Damascus and the armed opposition,” – said Dwidar.

In addition, he noted that the Syrian political opposition, which grew in the incubator of the Assad regime, like the Syrian government, were present until the last moment equally certain arrogance and lack of understanding the gravity of the situation.

“Both sides tried to impose on each other unacceptable conditions. The mentality and perception of the world from both sides of the same. Now there is a real field commanders among the opposition delegation in Astana in the light of the Russian experience of resolving conflicts with Islamist groups hope that the Syrian opposition will be powerful political representatives, with whom it is possible to agree on key issues,” – said the expert on the Middle East.

Dwidar recalled that normally the opposition who love to blame Russia for what she allegedly saved the Assad regime still has not provided any full-fledged alternative to Bashar al-Assad leader. Astana, according to experts, in the long term can help break this impasse.

The land issue they messed up

Political scientist, Professor NRU HSE Dmitry Evstafev believes that the main contradiction between the participants of the talks in Astana is “land question”. “The parties can’t decide who’s who in the Syrian ground. This is the main obstacle to the adoption of any productive decisions in these negotiations,” he told the newspaper VIEW.

According to Evstafiev, the talks in Astana is useful from the point of view of the image of Russia, but from the point of view of the adoption agreement that suits all parties, they are meaningless pastime. “In addition, one of the most influential players in Syria and Iraq, the U.S., in the negotiations is present only as an observer, and to reach some agreement without the us, unfortunately, impossible,” he added.

The expert also noted that we sat down at the negotiating table with a number of organizations that otherwise can not be called a terrorist. “We legitimized the same “Jaish al-Islam”, and this may further lead to quite serious consequences. I repeat: the negotiations may bring Russia some image dividends, but a constructive agreement there will not be achieved,” – concluded the analyst.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”


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