Syrian opposition suspends participation in Astana talks

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ASTANA (TCA) — The armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on May 3 that it was suspending its participation in peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and calling for an end to government bombardments, RFE/RL reports.

Syrian National Coalition (SNC) spokesman Ahmad Ramadan made a one-sentence statement on the first day of the fourth round of the high level International Meeting on Syria on May 3-4, sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

“The delegation has suspended its participation after presenting a memorandum for a total commitment to stopping [government] bombardments,” Ramadan said.

Ramadan said the opposition delegation would remain in Astana to discuss violations of a cease-fire brokered in December by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, and to present its questions about a Russian proposal for safe zones.

The United Nations envoy to the talks, Staffan de Mistura, and the Russian envoy, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, issued statements urging the opposition delegation to rejoin the discussions on May 4.

The Russian plan was discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi earlier on May 3.

Lavrentyev said it envisions the establishment of four zones in which the armed opposition, “backed by the guarantor countries, would be directly combating terrorist organization groups.”

Lavrentyev said the plan “should break a stalemate in the problem of separating moderate opposition from terrorist organizations…and will help substantively lower the level of armed confrontation between the Syrian armed opposition and government troops.”

He said he hoped a memorandum on the plan would be adopted on May 4.

Ramadan told the Associated Press that the opposition could not accept the safe-zones proposal in the form that it was presented on May 3.

The Astana Process has played an important role in strengthening the ceasefire regime in Syria, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said. The outcome of the Astana meeting will directly affect the conduct of the Syrian negotiations in Geneva. Kazakhstan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, will continue to provide the platform and create favorable conditions for the successful conduct of the negotiations on Syria within the Astana Process.

Sergey Kwan

TCA