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Syrian Factions Link Attending ‘Astana’ to Ceasefire, Resettlement Plan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks with his weapon in northern Raqqa province, Syria February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Beirut – Syria’s opposition factions linked their participation in the Astana intra-Syrian talks next March 14-15 to the implementation of a full ceasefire in opposition-controlled areas.

The factions refused to consider the “ceasefire” item as a pre-condition to their participation in the talks, but said the cessation of fighting in Syria was rather linked to the implementation of previous promises.

Meanwhile, head of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad ruled out that negotiations lead to any solution, saying: “We didn’t expect Geneva to produce anything, but it’s a step and it’s going to be a long way.”

In an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix, Assad said a political solution is possible in a reconciliatory agreement between the regime and opposition factions.

Syria’s opposition factions received an invitation to take part in the third Astana meeting. The armed delegations had demanded last week that the UN sponsors the third round of talks in the Kazakh capital.

On Saturday, the factions responded to the invitation by setting what they called as “the elements for any future round of talks” with regime forces.

These elements include a full ceasefire in opposition-controlled areas, an end to forced resettlement and a conclusion of ceasefire mechanism discussions.

Also, the delegation to the Astana talks wants the meeting to start after March 20, the deadline to assess the ceasefire established in the al-Waer and East Ghouta areas.

Colonel Fateh Hassoun, a member of the opposition negotiating team in Geneva told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Our demands could not be considered as conditions, but an obvious request to resume any future talks.”

Hassoun accused Moscow of not respecting its previous promises listed in the agreement to halt fighting in Syria.

“If we do not see practical steps to bolster the ceasefire and stop the forced resettlement plan launched by regime forces in the neighborhood of al-Waer in Homs, there won’t be any negotiations,” Hassoun said.