The new format and the composition
The talks in Astana will be held in the new format. “The task of the guarantor countries to sit at the table the Syrian government and a delegation of the armed opposition, because it still was not <…> and give them the opportunity to negotiate under the mediation of the UN, now that they will be among the participants of the broader negotiations,” January 20, formulated the task of the forthcoming conference, the Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov (quoted by TASS).
The guarantor countries are Russia, Iran and Turkey. It was decided at the December meeting in Moscow of defense Ministers and foreign Ministers of the three countries. Prior to that the principal agents of settlement in Syria were the US and Russia, who heads the International support group in Syria.
29 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that thanks to the joint efforts of the “Troika” of the Syrian government and the armed opposition signed a cease-fire, and then to begin the second phase of the settlement negotiations. Parties to the conflict “Troika”, with the support of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed to convene in Astana.
Moscow points to the fact that future negotiations are not a substitute to the negotiation process under UN auspices in Geneva. The Geneva meeting, which involved only the political opposition represented by the Higher Committee on negotiations to resolve the conflict failed. With 31 December of last year, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a Russian-Turkish draft resolution in support of the achieved cease-fire and the resumption of the political process.
“The main qualitative difference from all previous attempts is that it will be a meeting involving people who are in arms against each other “on the ground” and control a specific territory in Syria,” said 17 January, foreign Minister of Russia. According to Lavrov, the opposition has no influence on the ground and not in control of those who are gaining territory.
Commanders of armed groups will take part in the negotiations for the first time. Everyone who said to participate, joined the ceasefire. The process of approval of the list of negotiators from the armed groups is still ongoing in Ankara.
As of January 20 consent to participate in the negotiations gave nine groups: “Jaish al-Islam”, “Falak al-sham, al-Jabha arg-Samia”, “Division of Sultan Murad”, “Jaish al-Issa”, “Jaish al-Nasr”, “1st coastal division”, “the Brigade of martyrs of Islam” and group “Fastack”. The formation of “Jaish al-Islam” is the biggest among them, about 12 thousand people are fighting in the provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Dar, Deir-ez-Zor, Latakia, Hama and HOMS. The other groups are not so numerous, they mostly operate in the provinces of Idlib and Hama, the Northern province of Aleppo and in the suburbs of Damascus.
A single delegation of the opposition will be headed by Mohammad Alloush, a former negotiator of the Higher Committee on negotiations (CPSU) and the leader of the group “Jaish Il-Islam”, reports the website of the information office “forces of the Syrian revolution”.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Alloush has promised to fight on the upcoming talks “at the front” and said that the opposition will seek to consolidate these achievements, the truce, lifting the blockade in some areas, as well as the release of prisoners from prisons.
From participation in the meeting in Astana has refused the representatives of the “Ahrar al-sham” — one of the most influential and major groups leading the fighting is mainly in Idlib province in the North-East of Syria. According to estimates of the Ministry of defense of Russia, its population is about 16 thousand people, fighting also in the provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Dar, Latakia, Hama and HOMS.
Also will not be present in Astana representatives of groups “Sukur al-sham”, “Falak ar-Rahman”, “Suvar al-sham”, “Jaish Idlib”, “Jaish al-Mujahideen” and the group “Noureddine al-Zinki”.
It is worth noting that the group “Ahrar al-sham and Jabhat Fatah al-sham” (formerly “Front EN-Nusra”, included in the international list of terrorist organizations) are present in the same areas, mainly in Idlib province. “A checkpoint of Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border is controlled by the two groups in half,” — said Mahmoud al-Afandi, Secretary of the opposition movement “people’s diplomacy”. According to al-Afandi, agreeing to take part in the talks in Astana, “Ahrar al-sham” would automatically have declared war on militants of “al-Nusra”.
In turn, member of the Higher Committee on negotiations of the Syrian opposition Nasr al-Hariri, involved at the moment in the consultation talks in Ankara, binds the refusal of the factions to attend talks with the violations of the cease-fire by the Syrian army and its ally Hezbollah in Wadi Barada in Damascus province. “Despite the fact that representatives of the “Ahrar al-sham” are not directly involved in the negotiations, they authorize the delegation to represent their interests and will adhere to the agreements reached if they are for the benefit of the Syrian people,” — said Nasr al-Hariri.
The delegation of the Syrian government headed by Bashar ja’afari, the permanent representative of the country at the UN. Official Damascus has agreed to participate in the meeting to prove commitment to a peaceful settlement and to refute the allegations that the Syrian government against dialogue, explained in an interview with Tasnim, the Minister of reconciliation Ali Haidar Syria.
The Kurds are not in full force
All three rounds of the Geneva talks on settlement of the Syrian conflict passed without the Kurds. At the meeting in Astana will not all Kurdish forces.
In coordination with the Turkish authorities, the Kurdish delegation will include only the representatives of the Syrian Kurdish national Council, its Chairman said, the detained human rights defender Bashar in an interview with the news Agency Rudaw.
However, the most successful in the fight against ISIS (banned in Russia organization), Kurdish forces on Turkey negotiations are not allowed. Of them are excluded by the “Democratic forces of Syria” (DSS) and the party “Democratic Union” (PYD). Latest Ankara considers a wing of the PKK, a recognized terrorist in the country. Exactly paramilitaries “democratic Union”, including “the people’s protection Units” (YPG) and “the Female people’s protection units” (YPJ), are conducting a successful offensive against ISIS in Northern Syria along the Turkish border.
Last week the Executive Committee of the Democratic Federation — the Kurdish Autonomous body of the Department stated that it did not support the results of the meeting on Syria in Astana, noting that “Russia is repeating the mistakes” of the Western countries — participants of the Geneva talks, not inviting them Kurds, reports the Kurdish Hawar Agency. “As we were excluded from those negotiations, we do not recognize neither the conference nor any of its results”, — reports the Agency Sputnik the words of the representative of DSS Syria Talal Village.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that he hopes for a productive outcome of the negotiations in Astana, the Agency SANA. According to Assad, the meeting will be primarily aimed at securing agreements on ceasefire, start of dialogue on a peaceful settlement, however, the question of early presidential elections with the opposition will not be discussed. Assad also said that all the militants involved in the negotiations of the factions will be pardoned. Damascus does not expect significant progress from the negotiations, said the Minister of reconciliation Haidar, noting the difficult situation in which they are held.
“The success rate is 40-60%, taking into account that any agreements will not apply to the group “Ahrar al-sham”, which controls more than 60 percent of the area of the armed opposition in Northern Syria,” said Secretary of the Syrian opposition movement “people’s diplomacy” Mahmoud al-Afandi. He admits that the negotiations will turn into a series of mutual accusations, explaining that the permanent representative of Syria to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, who heads the delegation of the Syrian government, is a political figure and not a military one.
Any results from the meeting in Astana should not wait, the main task of the parties at the moment is the preservation of the truce before the Geneva talks, suggested in a conversation with Alexander Shumilin, Director of the Center for analysis of middle East conflicts of the Institute of USA and Canada studies.
“The upcoming meeting could be a starting point for expansion of political dialogue only in case if Russia will really act as a guarantor of the ceasefire,” — said a member of the CPSU Syria Nasr al-Hariri. He stressed that the results of negotiations in Astana directly depend on how Russia will behave in the future. According to al-Hariri, if the agreement will continue to be violated by government troops and their allies, the negotiations won’t move.
However, both the opposition agree that the meeting in Astana is a preparatory stage for further political dialogue, including in Geneva.
With US and not against Geneva
Russia and Turkey are invited to the talks in Astana representatives of the UN and the new U.S. administration, said the foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov. Against the participation of the United States delivered Tehran an invitation by the US state Department was received, but whether the United States to participate in negotiations will be known only after acting Deputy Secretary of state Tom Shannon will hold consultations on this issue with a new U.S. administration.
The UN will be the Deputy special envoy of the organization for Syria ezeldin Ramsay, Ramsay, told news center of the UN.