By HASSAN FATHI
A new round of negotiations has begun in Astana to end the Syrian conflict. Delegations from Iran, Russia, U.S. , Turkey and Syria are heading for Kazakhestan. Several sessions between Tehran, Moscow and Ankara have already taken place. The situation on the ground is changing. Turkey insists on removing Kurdish fighters from its border with Syria although Washington supports them.
Syria rebels will not attend Astana peace talks, says spokesman
Syrian rebel factions will not attend a new round of negotiations with government figures in the Kazakh capital.”Rebel groups have decided not to participate in Astana,” said Osama Abu Zeid, saying one reason for the boycott was “unfulfilled pledges related to the cessation of hostilities.”
The third round of talks in Astana, sponsored by government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
The Astana track has aimed to reinforce a fragile ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December.
Syrian government offensives and sieges against rebel-held areas have continued despite attempts to maintain the ceasefire – while a suicide bomb attack on Saturday caused dozens of casualties in government-held Damascus.
“We decided not to participate in Astana because the reinforcement of the ceasefire was not implemented,” said Ahmad Othman, commander of the Ankara-backed Sultan Murad rebel group.
The issue of an interim government in Syria has also come under discussion although Ankara no longer insists on the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Another issue has been the opposition fighting groups – some of which have refused to sit round the table with the erstwhile Syrian Government delegation.
The current session, at the height of a six year struggle which has left 400,000 dead and millions of destitute and homeless, is important. Saudi Arabia is taking an interest in the conflict, although the demand to eliminate Iran hasn’t been received kindly by Syrians or Russians.
Previous meetings in Geneva or Astana proper failed to resolve all issues. Europe and the United States are alarmed at the number of dead and refugees during the conflict. A ceasefire is imperative although previous attempts haven’t been observed by all parties. The current session must
Get all negotiating parties round one table and mediate a reasonable agenda which will ultimately lead to Parliamentary elections in the enclave and a permanent government.