Wednesday, July 5, ended the fifth round of negotiations in Astana. The negotiations were attended by delegations of the Syrian government, armed opposition and the countries — guarantors of the armistice Russia, Turkey and Iran, signed a cease-fire in December 2016. At the meeting as observers was also attended by special envoy of the UN Secretary General on Syria Staffan de Mistura, acting assistant Secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones and adviser to the foreign Minister of Jordan for political Affairs Nawaf, Wasfi tel.
The lines are not aligned
Negotiators failed to finalize, where will the line of contact and the conditions of implementation of the four zones of de-escalation in Idlib province, to the North of the city of HOMS, Eastern ghouta and in the South of Syria. The only thing agreed by all participants by decision of the meeting was the adoption of provisions on the establishment of a joint working group, which was assigned to finalize all operational and technical conditions for the establishment of four zones. Following the meeting in Astana to be held in the last week of August this year, announced the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. To create such zones in Syria, the guarantor countries agreed at the previous meeting in Astana on may 3-4.
However the guarantor countries in a joint statement following the talks, expressed its satisfaction with the progress in defining the boundaries of the zones of de-escalation.
The head of the Syrian delegation, foreign Minister Bashar al-Jaafari called the results of the fifth meeting in Astana modest, placing the responsibility on Turkey. “The Turkish delegation for the fifth time made every effort to complicate the achievement of positive results,” said ja’afari (quoted by “Interfax”). The special representative of the President of Russia on the Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev said at a press conference following the talks, that a consensus on the formation of three zones in the region of Idlib, HOMS and Eastern ghouta “will be achieved in the near future”. According to him, the Turkish delegation during the consultations said that she needs additional time in order to agree on the necessary parameters and take an appropriate decision. What decisions are expected in the fourth area, he said.
Delaying Turkey final decision on areas of de-escalation may be due to the fact that Ankara has failed to negotiate with Moscow on gaining control over the city of Afrin in Northwest Syria, said the expert of the Russian international Affairs Council (RIAC) Maxim Suchkov. Ankara shortly before the meeting in Astana held talks with Moscow about the conclusion kind of transaction: in exchange for Russia’s assistance in the transfer of the city under the control of the Turkish military Ankara was ready to contribute to the solution of a question on creation of a zone of de-escalation in Idlib, which controls the armed opposition, knows the examiner from a source close to the Turkish military. Russia faced a difficult choice between warring Kurds and Turkey, said Knots. On the one hand, Moscow needs to seek the location of the Syrian Kurds, who rely mainly on the support of the United States, on the other — Turkey is a partner of Russia on the Syrian settlement, stresses of Knots. “This theme, the Turks tried to play, knowing that Russia is a very important city of Idlib for progress on truce in Syria,” — said the expert.
Lavrentiev at the press conference also confirmed previously received information that Russia sent to all the countries of the CIS offer to consider placing their troops as observers in the areas of de-escalation. “We do not impose, if the Kazakh government decides to send a contingent, we will welcome it”, — the diplomat said.
That Russia has offered Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to send its military to Syria, announced on 22 June, a spokesman for Turkish President Ibrahim Kalin. Representatives of both countries denied the negotiations on this issue.
Expectations were not met
A day earlier, on Tuesday, Lavrentiev noted the positive attitude of delegations to the negotiations and said that the negotiators on the first day already failed to agree on the line of contact and the border between the two areas: in the province of HOMS and Eastern ghouta (suburb of Damascus). However, the difficulties, he said, arose when discussing the establishment of zones in Idlib and in southern Syria. Because of this, the negotiators had to continue to work in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. According to Lavrentyev, in the case of signing documents on the establishment of zones to implement them and take action on placement of forces will need two to three weeks.
The lack of progress at the meeting in Astana will not lead to the escalation of hostilities in the areas of de-escalation, said Knots. According to him, all involved in the conflict parties “are in standby mode” until the meeting of the presidents of Russia Vladimir Putin and the United States of Donald trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7 July. “Further developments in Syria will depend on what agreement the two leaders,” concluded Knots.
Russian negotiator also stressed the commitment of the guarantor countries to create a joint coordination center in Syria to monitor compliance in these areas and allowed the possibility of signing an agreement on this issue on the second day of negotiations. In addition, Lavrentiev said that talking about the deployment of observers from Russia in the areas of de-escalation is difficult, but he did not rule out the possibility of deploying military police to the buffer zones.
The meeting also discussed the issue of exchange of prisoners and mine of historical monuments. However, Lavrent’ev stressed that the adoption of agreements on these issues, you must first start the implementation of the zones of de-escalation. “From the start of the process in the zones of de-escalation depends on the adoption of a number of other related issues that are, on the one hand, a secondary character, but work to strengthen confidence-building measures between the parties,” he said. Another topic of the talks was to discuss the creation of the Syrian national Committee of the truce, which will include representatives of the Syrian authorities, elders and local influential people.