Russia, Turkey, Iran to go ahead with Syria talks: Kazakhstan

March 14, 2017

TEHRAN – Russia, Turkey and Iran are pressing ahead with the third round of the Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Monday, despite a request from the Syrian opposition to postpone the meeting.

“We are awaiting confirmations from the other parties to the meeting,” Abdrakhmanov told the parliament. He added that delegations had already started arriving in the Kazakh capital, Astana, where the peace talks are held. 

Last week, Syrian rebel groups called for a delay of the talks and said that further meetings would depend on whether the government and its allies adhered to a newly declared ceasefire between March 7 and 20.

The Syrian rebel delegation to the Astana talks was not ready at this point to attend a new round of Syria talks, a senior member of the delegation said on Monday.

Colonel Ahmad Othman, who heads the Turkey-backed Sultan Murad rebel brigade, said that they were awaiting a Russian response to a letter that demands that Moscow acts as a guarantor and ends violation in the ceasefire. “Nothing has been implemented so far,” Othman claimed.

The United Nations Security Council has praised the peacemaking potential of the “Astana process”, Abdrakhmanov said in his address of the lower house of parliament. 

According to the minister, the UN Security Council has applauded Kazakhstan’s role in solving the Syrian crisis. “Members of the UN Security Council noted that arranging dialogue between the Syrian government and the armed opposition, strengthening the ceasefire and setting up a trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire guaranteed by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, became possible thanks to the steps taken by the head of our state and the Astana process,” he said. 

The Iranian delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari, left Tehran for Astana on Monday to attend the third round of talks on the Syrian crisis. The talks are due to take place in the Kazakh capital on March 14-15. 

Delegations from Russia, Turkey and Iran will take part in the meeting; invitations have also been sent to the United Nations, the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the United States and Jordan. The Syrian government and the armed opposition are expected to confirm their participation. Preliminary consultations will be held on March 14 and a plenary meeting is due on March 15. 

“The composition of the participants, the format and the agenda of the meeting are determined by the guarantor countries,” the Kazakh foreign minister said. He also added that he has no information concerning Egypt, when asked about Egypt’s possible participation in the talks.

“I met with some representatives of the Syrian opposition on the sidelines of the Geneva talks. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the ceasefire is being implemented as well as with the situation concerning the prisoner release and lifting the siege in districts adjacent to the areas defined by the ceasefire agreements,” Andrakhmanov added. 

At the same time, the Kazakh top diplomat stressed that the guarantor countries were obliged to ensure the participation of the Syrian government as well as the armed opposition. 

Speaking ahead of the talks, Abdrakhmanov said that Kazakhstan has received an official message from the Russian Federation saying that a special representative of the Russian president and a special representative of the foreign minister will participate in the talks next to deputy foreign ministers from Turkey and Iran. Other participants still have to confirm their presence at the third round of Astana talks. 
The first Syria peace talks in Astana were held on February 6. During the second international conference, on February 15-16, Russia Iran and Turkey created a joint trilateral ceasefire group as part of the Syria truce monitoring mechanism. The Astana talks are regarded as a progress in resolving the Syrian conflict, which has been going on for almost six years now.

KB/PA

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