Astana talks on Syria come to end sans opposition groups

ASTANA, Mar. 16 (MNA) – The talks on the Syrian reconciliation that were held in the Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana ended on Wednesday with the Syrian opposition refusing to take part in the negotiations.

On Wednesday, head of Russia's delegation to the talks Alexander Lavrentiev said that the Syrian armed opposition could arrive in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Thursday.

"Despite the absence of the Syrian armed opposition delegation at the talks in Astana, we hope that it will change its position. And according to incoming information, it intends to come to Astana tomorrow morning. Let us hope," Lavrentyev said.

However, later in the day, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said that it would not take part in Astana talks.

"Nobody from the FSA will travel to Astana," Ahmed Berri, the chief of staff of FSA, told the Al Arabiya television channel.

Bashar Jaafari, head of the Syrian government’s delegation, said that there would be no extension of the talks. He also accused Turkey of being responsible for the opposition’s demarche.

"As you noted the third round of Astana and the concluding meeting ended without the delegation of the armed terrorist groups. Turkey as the guarantor state is responsible for impeding Astana process," Jaafari told reporters.

The head of Russia delegation expressed his regrets that the opposition had failed to participate in the talks.

"We are very sorry that the armed Syrian opposition was not present at the current consultations, because if it were here, a number of issues including in the interests of the population living the territories that this armed opposition controls could have been resolved in a positive key," Lavrentiev said, adding that talks with the Syrian armed opposition should continue as the problems can be resolved only by means of mutual dialogue.

He also said that there were forces that wanted to disrupt the Syrian reconciliation process.

"We must also take into account that there are forces that want not only to disrupt the course of the Astana process, as well as the negotiations process in Geneva, but also want to disrupt the possibility of holding any peace talks, including on political settlement," Lavrentiev said.

According to the head of the Russian delegation, participants of Astana talks confirmed that, despite the existing ceasefire violations in Syria, the level of violence in the country has declined.

"The meeting participants confirmed that, despite the existing violations of the regime of cessation of hostilities, the level of violence in the zones of the regime has significantly decreased," Lavrentiev told reporters.

He also said that the Russian delegation had held a bilateral meeting with the US delegation to coordinate the two countries' visions on Syrian settlement.

Lavrentiev pointed out that Turkey and Iran had provided detailed information on the important issue of separating terrorists from the moderate opposition in Syria.

"At present we have received fairly detailed information from both the Turkish and Iranian sides. There is superimposing of maps, in other words those places designated as zones controlled specifically by [Islamic State] and Jabhat Nusra," Lavrentiev said.

He also expressed hope that the Syrian armed opposition would help in providing information on maps locating terrorist positions.

Lavrentiev also added that the next meeting in Astana would be held on May 3-4.

"It will be preceded by a meeting of experts in Tehran on April 18-19, during which it is planned to finalize the documents in such a way that they can be approved during the next meeting in Astana," the Russian delegation’s head said.

Jaafari said that the Syrian delegation had discussed with Russia the document on demining Palmyra liberated from the ISIL terrorists.

"We did not discuss any documents except for one, which regards the demining of the historical city of Palmyra. The delegation of Syria presented its own view and vision on that document. The Russian side did accept it, and on that basis we will have further steps, the Russian side will discuss that document with other countries, including with guarantor states. That is the only document that we discussed with our friends from Russia," Jaafari said.

Later in the day, Jaafari said that the delegation had held an additional meeting to discuss constitutional changes.

"Several minutes after the final meeting, we held an additional meeting with the Russian delegation. We heard a proposal related to the constitution. We had some thoughts on the issue, we handed them over to the Russian side. We asked them to discuss this topic. The issue is still under discussion of Russian and Syrian sides," Jaafari said.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, as three ceasefire guarantor states, adopted a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to the Syrian peace process.

"The three countries… underlined the importance of the essential role of the Astana meetings In terms of complementing and facilitating the Geneva process, welcomed the resumption of the Geneva talks and… based on the interlinkage between the Geneva and Astana processes they expressed their support for the continuation of the talks in Geneva on March 23, 2017" the joint statement said adding that the parties to the talks discussed the ways to reduce violence and strengthen the ceasefire regime.


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