Andrei Baklanov: "Inter-Syrian meeting in Astana is new chance for peace in Syria"
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the preparing meeting on the Inter-Syrian settlement between Damascus and the opposition in Astana "a new milestone on the way towards peace in Syria". The official date of the meeting has not yet been determined, but Moscow and Ankara are actively working on its implementation. The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the importance of this round of negotiations for the settlement of the Syrian crisis.
- Andrei Glebovich, in your estimation, what is the usefulness of this meeting for today?
- At the moment we are waiting for the US position's new emphasis, which coincides with another important fact: the military-strategic superiority of Damascus, which characterized the development of the situation in Syria recently. First of all I mean the liberation of Aleppo by the official authorities. It is also necessary to stress a quite successful promotion of the reconciliation process on the ground: more than 1000 Syrian settlements agreed on a peaceful way of resolving differences with respect to the political system and development of Syria.
Those formats that have existed over the past years are not working, and therefore, the political process needed fresh impetus. As for the countries, which will be engaged in a supervision of the Syrian settlement, these are the most active in the Syrian affairs states - Russia, Turkey and Iran. There is a certain freeze of the US position, as well as the reluctance to do anything of their so-called coalition allies.
It is hard to say what will happen. Anyway, they should not miss the new opportunities created by meeting site in Astana. There can be new faces among those members of the opposition, which will enter into negotiations. This is important because the former negotiators from the Syrian opposition imposed unrealistic requirements. Such negotiations were not quite very helpful, so we will try to engage in a peaceful settlement in Syria in a new place and through a new format with new curators.
- How do you think, what is the maximum which the sides of the Syrian crisis and the mediators will be able to achieve at this meeting?
- This is the starting meeting. It is difficult to expect any breakthrough solutions from it, given the unclear position of the potential member of such an important peace process, as the United States. However, it will be possible to agree on the approximate amount of tasks for the experts to prepare a full-scale meeting, as well as agree on the directions of work and final objectives. Apparently, the question should be raised on the nature and terms of changing the Constitution: how it will take place and whether the current parliament or some other tools will be used to draft a new constitution.
It is also necessary to determine the composition of the participants and the principles on which the composition will be chosen. It seems to me very important from the beginning to stop trying to speak the language of ultimatums: Syria with Assad or without Assad. If the opposition starts to sound like a broken record again, that won't do any good. If the opposition makes a realistic move, then it will be possible to fix what people in those 1000 settlements really want at the level of political negotiations on the future of Syria, in order to move to a more peaceful living conditions.
- What should follow the meeting in Astana to avoid losing the progress, like the results of previous negotiation rounds?
- I think we need to agree on who will be a curator of the peace process: whether it will be a triple 'Russia-Turkey-Iran' or some wider format, what is the role of the UN, which has proved to be not a very useful participant in the past. The United Nations in accordance with its charter is able to revive its participation in the unblocking of the Syrian crisis and stop making the mistakes, which we have recently seen in the statement of Staffan de Mistura, who presented his personal position as the agreed opinion of the entire United Nations. Let me remind you that, when Aleppo was almost liberated, he offered the local administration as the city authority, which was a very bad idea, and if the representatives of the United Nations continue to work in this spirit, they would not be useful. Therefore, in particular, it is necessary to agree on who will be involved in the Syrian settlement from the United Nations, at what level, and how he will act to make the UN more solid and promising.
- What events are able to prevent holding this round of peace talks?
- A disruption of pacification in the field, which can be expected from those who do not want a situation changeover in favor of peace. Possible provocative actions in the ideological sphere, aimed at driving a wedge between us and Turkey, between us and Iran, between Tehran and Ankara to discredit all joint efforts in the formative stage, which we are making to resolve the Syrian crisis. This is the main danger, which is expected in the coming days and weeks.
- Why has Astana been chosen as the venue?
- Because of the authority and skillfulness of the Kazakh diplomacy. Kazakhstan is pursuing an extremely competent and credible foreign policy: President Nursultan Nazarbayev's initiatives are very appropriate both on the European continent and in the Central Asian format, its role in the SCO forming was also significant. Kazakhstan today is perhaps the most important participant in the formation of a dialogue of civilizations and religions. The combination of these factors indicates a very high activity and literacy of Astana's diplomacy, so the choice of a city to revive the peace process of settling the Syrian crisis was not made by accident.