Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Absence of Syrian Factions Threatens ‘Astana 3’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Children walk near a parked ambulance in al-Rai town in Aleppo, Syria. (Reuters)

Moscow, London – As the Kazakh foreign ministry placed the final touches to host the third round of the intra-Syrian talks expected to kick off on Tuesday in Astana, the Syrian opposition announced its decision not to attend the meeting.

The opposition’s choice came in light of the violations committed by regime forces against the ceasefire agreement, therefore dissipating any hopes that the two-day meeting in the Kazakh capital could introduce any positive developments to the crisis in Syria.

Sources in Moscow and Astana asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that Russia and Turkey were still using their military and diplomatic channels to convince the Syrian opposition factions to back down from their decision.

And while the Russian diplomatic corps avoided commenting on the factions’ refusal to attend the Astana 3 meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu held phone talks to discuss preparations for the Syrian reconciliation talks in Astana.

“The ministers discussed preparations for the third international meeting on Syria in Astana and the implementation of agreements related to upholding the ceasefire and establish an effective intra-Syrian negotiation process,” the Russian ministry said in a statement on its website.

On the humanitarian level, the children suffering in Syria reached its worst as grave violations against them were the highest on record in 2016, said UNICEF in an assessment of the conflict’s impact on children.

The report issued on Monday said at least 652 children were killed – a 20 percent increase from 2015 – making 2016 the worst year for Syria’s children since the formal verification of child casualties began in 2014.

UNICEF added that more than 850 children were recruited to fight in the conflict, more than double the number recruited in 2015.

Speaking from Homs, Syria, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere said: “The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down.”