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Opposition Delegation, Assad Face-to-Face in Astana on Monday | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian regime forces patrol the northern city of Aleppo (AFP Photo/George Ourfalian)

Moscow- The Kazakh capital, Astana, is expected to witness on Monday the first face-to-face talks between a delegation of Syrian armed opposition factions and the regime, under the tripartite sponsorship of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The 10-member regime delegation, headed by its U.N. ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, and the opposition delegation also including around 10 commanders led by Mohammad Alloush arrived on Sunday in Astana, where the majority of participating opposition factions had already landed. Around 14 representatives from the opposition factions and 21 military and political advisors are attending the peace talks.

The Syrian regime’s objectives include reaching “common grounds” with other participants, Syrian state news agency Sana quoted Jaafari as saying.

The talks will be held in the Astana’s Rixos President Hotel, around a single large table where opposition factions and regime figures are expected to sit for the first time in the same room, along with U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

De Mistura on Sunday hailed the talks as a “good initiative” in comments carried by Russian news agencies

The delegations of the states sponsoring the International Meeting on Syrian Settlement kept their meetings open to draft an agreement that could solve the crisis and that could be later proposed to the Syrian parties.

However, these negotiations failed to solve all the disputes, despite the assertions of Russian president’s special envoy for the Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentyev, who said negotiations would continue until an agreement is reached.

“There can be no simple solutions to this protracted conflict, but we are sparing no effort to try to bring closer the positions of the parties to the Syrian conflict, i.e. the regime and armed opposition groups,” Lavrentyev said.

For his part, the head of the Iranian delegation to Astana, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari said: “There has not been an agreement to hold face-to-face negotiations between the two Syrian delegations.”

Both the regime and the opposition delegations asserted on Sunday that the talks on Syria would focus on securing the current ceasefire.

Hisham Marwah, member of the Syrian National Coalition, who is also participating in the Astana talks said the opposition delegation would demand securing the ceasefire in the presence of international observers and an accountability mechanism.

The head of a delegation at peace talks, Mohammad Alloush told Reuters on Sunday, “Russia wants to move from a direct party in the fighting to a guarantor and neutral one and this point is being obstructed by the Syrian regime that wants it to fail and Iran that is fighting this with its sectarian militias in Syria.”

The Astana talks come after the failure of several initiatives to solve the Syrian crisis during the nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was invited to participate in the talks, but Washington will not send a delegation. Its ambassador to Kazakhstan will instead represent it, the State Department said.