Beirut, Ankara- Syria’s opposition factions demanded on Tuesday that the UN sponsors a third round of talks between its delegation and regime officials expected in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on March 14.
The factions based their request on the fact that UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura had concluded the fourth round of UN-backed intra-Syrian talks between the regime and opposition factions in Geneva last week by deferring the main articles of Resolution 2254 to the Astana meetings.
On Tuesday, opposition factions were still hesitant concerning their participation in the Astana 3 talks, saying all options were possible.
Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff Brig. Ahmed Berri, who had participated in the last round of the Astana talks told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are holding meetings to take a decision concerning our participation in the Astana meeting. But it is most probable that we will not attend if regime forces do not stop shelling opposition areas, particularly Eastern Ghouta, Homs and Idlib.”
Ahead of the Astana 3 talks, Russia said a ceasefire had been agreed for Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province. The agreement went into effect on Tuesday while the Russian Army announced a cessation of fighting until March 20.
Colonel Fateh Hassoun of the opposition negotiating team told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If things remain unchanged, there won’t be any hope for the Astana meetings, a development which could also negatively affect the next round of the Geneva talks.”
In a related development, the heads of the Russian, US and Turkish armed forces met on Tuesday in the Turkish city of Antalya to discuss the latest developments in Syria and Iran, and to further coordinate the military operations against ISIS, in addition to the “Raqqa” battle.
Although no information was leaked on the details of the meeting, Turkey’s Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said it was unfortunate to hear that some of Turkey’s allies chose the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) as their partner in the battle against ISIS in Syria.