Syria Talks Get Under Way in Astana Today

Russia, Turkey and Iran are pressing ahead with a fresh round of Syria talks in Kazakhstan, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Monday, as an opposition delegation spokesman said that Syrian rebel factions will not attend the new round of negotiations.

A Syrian government delegation arrived in Astana on Monday to attend the talks, Syrian state media reported.

“We are awaiting confirmations from the other parties to the meeting,” Abdrakhmanov told parliament, adding that delegations had already started arriving in the Kazakh capital.

“Rebel groups have decided not to participate in Astana,” said Osama Abu Zeid, adding that 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.

“We decided not to participate in Astana because the reinforcement of the ceasefire was not implemented,” said Ahmad Othman, commander of Sultan Murad rebel group.

“The government and the militias are continuing to bomb, displace, and besiege,” Othman said, and rebel groups had informed the talks’ sponsors of their decision.

Syrian state television on Monday reported that the government delegation, headed by Syria’s representative to the UN Bashar Al Jaafari, had arrived in the Kazakh capital.
Jaafari has also led the government’s representatives in parallel UN-backed talks in Geneva.

Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said the Russian and UN delegations had also arrived in Astana for the talks, with other teams expected later Monday.

The third round of Astana talks is due to take place on March 14-15. The previous meetings aimed to shore up a widely violated ceasefire between the sides that was brokered in December by Russia and Turkey, which backs the rebels.




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