Experts from Russia, Iran and Turkey acting as the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, will hold a meeting in Astana on Tuesday. Similar consultations were last held in Tehran on April 18-19.
Tuesday’s consultations precede international negotiations on the situation in that country that will begin on May 3. Astana is hosting this forum for the fourth time.
Russia’s delegation led by Presidential Envoy for the Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentiev , the Iranian, Turkish, possibly, the US (at the ambassadorial level) and the Jordanian delegations will be working in Kazakhstan’s capital on May 3. UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will arrive in Astana in the evening on May 2. Representatives of Damascus led by Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, have already arrived in Astana, while the participation of the armed opposition has not been confirmed yet.
On Tuesday, the parties are expected to hold preliminary consultations. In particular, a meeting between the Russian and UN delegations will be held.
Issues on agenda
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, of key importance will be the issues related to further consolidation of the ceasefire, implementation of confidence-building measures, delivery of humanitarian cargo and creation of favorable conditions for the political process. “The ceasefire between government forces and armed opposition is also crucial to effectively counter the terrorist threat in Syria,” Lavrov said.
Russia, Iran and Turkey have set up a joint group to monitor compliance with the ceasefire. Mechanisms for responsibility for violating the ceasefire, the working group on the exchange of detained individuals between the parties to the conflict need to be agreed further.
The issues of further expanding the number of the groups involved in the ceasefire, comparing the maps of the guarantor-countries and Jordan to separate the opposition from terrorists are likewise on the agenda.
Political issues, above all, setting up a constitutional commission to draft Syria’s new constitution, will be discussed as well. The opposition – the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – has so far refused to discuss this provision continuing to insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Negotiations without opposition
The delegation of the armed opposition did not come to the previous round held on March 14-15, citing allegedly numerous ceasefire violations.
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Moscow hopes that the armed opposition will take part in the meeting on Syria in Astana. “We hope that our Turkish partners as guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria will do the appropriate work.” “Astana exists to discuss all these issues and interact as efficiently as possible in terms of securing the cessation of hostilities,” Bogdanov noted.
The diplomat noted though that work in the Astana format will continue even if the armed opposition fails to take part in the talks. “What is the alternative to the work in the Astana format? Astana is aimed at consolidating the cessation of hostilities,” the envoy said.