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Syrian Opposition Presents List of Conditions to Attend Astana Talks - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut- During talks held with the Turkish side in Ankara on Wednesday, the Syrian opposition presented a “draft of conditions” for its participation in the Astana Summit expected to be held this month in Kazakhstan.

While some sources had hinted to the possibility of postponing the date of the talks till next February, a source in the Russian foreign ministry confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that talks on Syria’s political future will take place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on January 23.

“At this time there is no indication that the meeting will be postponed. The date of January 23 is set,” the source said of the negotiations to be hosted by Russia and Turkey between the Syrian regime and rebel groups.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are working to organize a new series of Syrian peace talks between the Bashar Assad regime and the opposition. Putin suggested the talks could take place in Astana.

During a meeting held on Tuesday, opposition groups agreed on a list of conditions that Russia should accept prior to announcing their decision whether to attend the talks or not.

The main point of their agreement is to stabilize the truce and reach a total ceasefire in Syria. The list of conditions includes the opposition’s insistence that the political branch also participate in the talks, contrary to what Moscow had planned earlier: only invite a Syrian military delegation that represents opposition factions.

Member of the Free Syrian Army politburo Zakaria Malahafiji said if Russia accepts the conditions, then the opposition would issue its final decision concerning its participation in the Astana talks.

Malahafiji told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Around 100 personalities from several Syrian political and military forces agreed on the necessity to send a delegation to Astana including members of the factions and the High Negotiations Committee.”

He said this delegation would be headed by a personality that is accepted by all parties.

“It seems Russia is interested in holding talks with the military factions with the aim of forming a joint military force that includes those factions and regime forces as a first step towards a solution in Syria,” Malahafiji said.

A French diplomatic source told Italian news agency Adnkronos on Wednesday that Russia was trying to suggest forming a Syrian transitional cabinet, including ministers from the regime, the opposition and independents. But the source added that the Friends of Syria would not accept Moscow’s proposal.

On the battlefield, Syrian regime forces and their allies have escalated their military operations in the Barada valley in the Damascus countryside.

Simultaneously, regime forces seek to reach a “unilateral reconciliation” agreement in the Barada valley, with reports about a deal already signed.

However, the Wadi Barada media office says regime forces presented an initiative, which residents and rebels were currently revising, but that no agreement has been reached yet.