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Astana Talks Conclude with Promises, Disappointments | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush (right) attends the Astana talks (AFP)

Beirut, Paris – Participants in the second round of Astana talks on Syria failed to agree over sustaining ceasefire in the war-torn country, while the opposition factions received Russian pledges to stop shelling areas controlled by the opposition.

Sources close to the opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that this week’s meeting in Astana has highlighted “deep divisions between the two main sponsors, namely Turkey and Russia.”

The head of the Syrian regime delegation, Bashar al-Jaafari, blamed the failure to adopt a final joint statement on the opposition factions.

The sources said the joint statement was a “protocol” paper submitted by Russia, hoping that both the opposition and the Syrian regime delegations would sign it.

Asharq Al-Awsat received a draft copy of the so-called Russian “protocol” or proposal to sustain the ceasefire.

The document sets out the procedure of detecting ceasefire violations and preventing violations in the future and certain sanctions against those who breach ceasefire terms.

Well-informed sources said that Turkey had also some reservations on the final statement, adding that the Turkish delegation was very small and did not have the authority to discuss or to sign the document.

Meanwhile, despite the opposition delegation’s disappointment with the outcome of talks, sources in the High Negotiations Committee said: “Despite the failure of [Astana talks], the opposition has no other choice than to participate in the Geneva meeting next week.”

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that until the present moment, there was no hint at boycotting the Geneva talks. “The situation is delicate,” the sources said.

In Germany, attention is focused on a meeting of a group of countries supporting the Syrian opposition for talks pushing a political solution to the nearly six-year war.

It will be the first meeting of the so-called “like-minded” nations – which consists of foreign ministers from Western and Arab states as well as Turkey — since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

In this regard, French diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that participants were eager to listen to the opinion of their new counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the American priorities in Syria and the means to achieve them.

Back to the Kazakh capital, Russia, Turkey, and Iran said they would move to bolster a shaky cease-fire.

The talks on February 16 marked a second attempt in Astana at bridging the deep divide between the warring sides and came ahead of a new round of United Nations talks on Syria in Geneva on February 23.

The Syrian regime and opposition delegations once again refused to hold one-on-one talks, and no joint statement was issued after a final 40-minute meeting involving all parties.

In a news conference, chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush said that the opposition has received several pledges from Moscow.

Russia promised to stop shelling opposition areas and to help push for the release of political prisoners, he said.