New round of intra-Syrian talks starts in Astana
Today, the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, will host a meeting at the experts level of Iran, Russia and Turkey, known as the three guarantors of a ceasefire in Syria. Experts of guarantor countries and Iranian delegation arrive in Astana to participate in the intra-Syrian talks, the head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry press service Anuar Zhainakov said.
Delegations of the Syrian government, the UN experts, the experts of the countries-guarantors [Russia, Turkey, Iran] at full strength arrived in the country. Heads of delegations of Turkey and Russia will arrive tonight," Zhainakov said.
The delegation of the Syrian armed opposition will be headed by leader of Jaysh al-Islam group Mohamed Alloush.
"All participants of the international meeting on Syria in Astana, including representatives of the armed Syrian opposition led by Mohamed Alloush, have confirmed their participation. The delegation of the Syrian opposition headed by Mohamed Alloush arrived in Astana," Zhainakov added.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, representatives from Jordan and the United States are expected to attend the negotiations as observers. Russian delegation at Astana talks will be headed by Russian special presidential envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev.
The next round of Astana talks on Syria is scheduled for May 3-4, while a meeting at the experts level is set to take place today.
The first three rounds of talks on Syrian settlement brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, were held in Kazakh capital Astana on January 23-24, February 15-16 and March 14-15. Similar consultations were last held in Tehran on April 18-19.
The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that since the last meeting in Astana, the stalemate in Syria has become more evident. "Damascus and the opposition need to negotiate, because neither side has any opportunity to change the existing balance of forces and to provide their applications for the formation of future power structures," he explained.
At the same time, Washington has become more active in the Syrian direction. "There are signals from the Americans through various channels about the possibility of the Assad government retaining power in the central regions and the emergence of administrative structures along the perimeter, where the current military leaders will take the leading positions. But it is a deadlock, since no one will reckon with the leaders of such administrative cells, while the issue of reunifying the country will be postponed. I think that the leaders of military formations have come to the conclusion that it is unpromising," Andrei Baklanov emphasized.
In his estimation, the readiness to conduct peace talks in Astana will increase in the near future. "The parties will propose compromise options to test these new recipes at the level of the Geneva talks. Failure to do so would continue instability in Syria," the diplomat stressed.
The result of such responsible behavior would be the revival of the talks in Astana and Geneva. "In recent months, the peace process has been sluggish. But there are already some encouraging moments, in particular, Jordan and some other countries are exploring the possibilities of participating in the negotiation process. It would be great if they find their place in it. The contacts with the Americans in the middle of the month will help promote the US participation in those formats where we have taken the most active part," the deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association concluded.
The orientalist Vyacheslav Matuzov, in turn, drew attention to the changes that have occurred since the last meeting of Damascus and the opposition in Astana. "First and foremost, the US decided to directly participate in military operations against the Syrian Arab army and inflicted missile strikes on the airport, accusing Damascus of using chemical weapons. It means that the US is in a position of confrontation with the Syrian authorities. Washington intensified its work with Ankara, and if not so long ago Turkey fully coordinated its actions with us, then after Donald Trump's rise to power, the US has been given greater attention from the Turkish authorities," the expert believes.
Such a rapprochement between the US and Turkey may negatively affect the process of negotiations in Astana, Vyacheslav Matuzov said. "Moscow and Ankara have already achieved very positive results when, with the assistance of Turkey, armed groups were withdrawn from Aleppo and several other regions without fighting. As for Iran, it retains its position, Moscow and Tehran have full contact," he added.
Any fighting, including against ISIS (the terrorist group banned in Russia), which will be launched without the consent of Damascus, will complicate the talks in Astana. "Any foreign intervention without considering the position of the Syrian legitimate authorities is fraught with the dismemberment of the country. In particular, the Kurdish enclave could be created closer to the Iraqi border, another enclave could be formed under the influence of Saudi Arabia, and the center could remain in legitimate hands, which will cause a political struggle in Damascus. It should be avoided," Vyacheslav Matuzov urged.