Syria peace talks start after intense day of consultations
The talks on Syria Settlement in Astana officially starts on Monday and, as expected, it will last two days. Following the results, the joint press conference of the parties is planned, TASS reports.
Day for the decision
Opening of talks is planned at 01.00 p.m on Astana time. The welcoming speech will be made by Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, then representatives of delegations will make statements.
The conclusion of talks is planned in December 24 at 01:00 p.m. on Astana time. At 02:00 p.m. the final press conference is planned, organizers and participants don't exclude that if it will be necessary, the work can be extended
In total seven delegations will take a part - the governments and oppositions of Syria, guarantor states of the agreement on truce in December 29 - Russia, Turkey and Iran, team of the special envoy of the UN Secretary General on Syria Staffan de Mistura and the US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol as the observatory.
The Russian delegation will be led by the special representative of Russian President on Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentyev, Iranian - the Deputy MFA Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Turkish - the Deputy Adviser of Turkey MFA for the Middle East and Africa job Sedat Onal. The current representative of Syria to the UN Bashar Jaafari acts as the head of Syria government delegation.
The opposition is provided by the armed groups acting first of all in the North and in the center of the country, partly in the south. In total there are the representatives of 12 groups in this delegation, five of which are agreement participants of December 29. At the same time the delegates from Ahrar ash-sham - one of the largest Syrian oppositional forming organization in the north of Syria in Idlib and Aleppo provinces didn`t arrive to the talks. At the same time there is Jaysh al Islam - (operates on the South of the country and near Damascus) led by Mokhammad Allush who also heads talks delegation of oppositionists.
The majority in delegation of opposition is the representatives of the armed groups. There are also delegates of the Highest Negotiation Committee (HNC), however at the level of advisers.
The main aim of talks in Astana is the confirmation of truce and political settlement in Syria. Following the results of discussions the approval of the general resulting document is expected.
The representatives of military department work in all the delegations, however the information on them doesn't extend. Russian Ministry of Defence is represented by the Deputy Chief of the Head Operational Management Stanislav Gadzhimuratov.
Together or separately
The format of talks remains unknown. After the opening, the work will go behind closed doors. It is still unknown whether the guarantor states of a truce gathers at one table all the delegations, first of all the governments and oppositions. Such result would be, certainly, breakthrough.
The alternative are the mediated talks in which the mediator as it was traditional in Geneva, de Mistura could act. However in that case the differences from the Geneva talks which in 2016 didn't have any result will be minimum.
So far the parties are pessimistic in this case. The heads of Russia and Iran delegations Lavrentyev and Ansari on Sunday declared that to reach the agreement about the direct contacts of the government and opposition wasn't possible yet.
The talks formally will start on Monday, but actually the hard work started in Astana on Sunday. More than five hours consultations The consultations of the representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey about the resulting document lasted more than five hours They weren`t succeeded. Russia delegation held also the meetings with de Mistura, delegations of Syria government and opposition of Syria.
The talks participants were avaricious on comments - said that work is continued, and noted a positive spirit. However the specific decisions weren`t announced. The representatives of HNC in delegation of opposition made the political requirements that also threatens to take away talks to the unproductive Geneva track.
"The main task is to renew this process, to interrupt a pause and to take one more very important step now - to involve those who represent the armed opposition and control the territory on the earth, Russian MFA Sergey Lavrov said. - It fully corresponds to the task set by UNSC - to provide completely representative character of Syrian oppositionists. Still the armed opposition wasn't presented in this process.”
At the same time at Smolenskaya Square the importance of ceasefire and fight against terrorism with efforts on a political track are paid attention. The agenda of Astana is almost clear, the priority is given to the observance of a truce of December 29 that will create the base for the political block of questions at the inter Syrian meeting in Geneva in February 8.
The Astana platform has to fix the connection of the armed opposition to the inter Syrian talks process. The talks in itself can become unprecedented - Damascus and opponents, perhaps, will for the first time sit down at one talks table, directly, but not through mediates. The main thing that a meeting didn't turn into the debating club, Lavrov noted.
Behind closed doors
The talks will take place in the closed format in the main hotel of Kazakhstan capital Rixos located in the new administrative center of the city near the residence of the president, buildings of the government and parliament, the House of the ministries.
The international meeting on Syria in Astana is covered by more than 500 journalists from 24 countries. The MFA accredited over 400 representatives of foreign media and about 100 local, TASS in MFA reports.
For comfortable work of journalists the press center for talks which will work round the clock is organized. It is opposite to Rixos hotel in the building of Kazmedia.