Technical Consultations Precede Astana 6, Washington Participates as Observer


Moscow – Experts from the guarantor states held a round of consultations on Wednesday in the Kazakh capital to prepare for the 6th round of talks on Syria, which will be officially launched on Thursday and is expected to witness the signing of an agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib governorate.

The United States confirmed its participation as an observer in this meeting, but expressed concern over Iran’s presence in Astana as a guarantor state.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, on an unannounced visit, to discuss the Syrian file with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.

Delegates from countries and parties involved in the Astana negotiations will take part in the talks, including the Guarantor States (Russia, Turkey and Iran), representatives of the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition factions, the United Nations represented by International Envoy Staffan de Mistura, as well as Jordan and the United States as observers.

David Satterfield, the US acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, will head the US delegation.

In a statement, the US State Department said Satterfield would “reinforce US support for all efforts to achieve a sustainable de-escalation of violence and provision of unhindered humanitarian aid.”

But it said Washington “remains concerned with Iran’s involvement as a so-called ‘guarantor’ of the Astana process.”

The State Department went on to say that Iran’s “activities in Syria and unquestioning support” for President Bashar al-Assad’s government “have perpetuated the conflict and increased the suffering of ordinary Syrians.”

The Kazakh foreign ministry said that Thursday’s talks were expected to focus on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib and the strengthening of the cease-fire in other areas.

The Kremlin said in a statement that talks between Putin and Zarif have touched on the situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf region, and the fight against terrorism.

For his part, the Russian foreign minister said following his meeting with Zarif that discussions have focused on the situation in Syria and Iraq, expressing hope that the current round of Astana negotiations would be successful.

Iranian Report Shows Foreign Banks’ Rejection to Deal with Teheran


London – While the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday the details of consultations between Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, the latter criticized the US Administration for “intimidating” international banks from establishing financial ties with Iran.

In its second report on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, the parliamentary committee said major banks refused to deal with Iran for fear of being subjected to US sanctions.

The report touches on the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear file in eight axes, including measures taken to implement the agreement, the country’s nuclear activity, in addition the sanctions imposed on the Persian State.

According to the report, more than 238 people and entities were still on the UN Security Council sanctions list, “even after 7 years” (8 years since the implementation of the agreement).

Iran’s financial and banking problems continue despite the passing of a year and a half on the implementation of the agreement, the report noted. It also accused the “5 + 1” joint commission of failing to implement its commitments with regards to the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Iranian financial sector.

The report pointed that the Iranian financial system has not been able to restore relations with major international banks.

While noting that “threats” of the US Treasury Department were the main reason for blocking the relationship between Iranian banks with foreign financial institutions, the report underlined significant economic and financial challenges facing the Iranian Central Bank.

Meanwhile, Zarif and his aides held a three-hour meeting on Wednesday with Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, according to deputy foreign minister, Hassan Ghashghavi.

The official said discussions touched on “diplomatic issues that were raised in the media in recent days.”