A new Syrian constitution was not discussed at talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Feb. 16, the head of Syria’s government delegation has said.
Bashar Ja’afari, the head of the Syrian government’s delegation, said the political issue of the constitution was not debated at the talks in Astana, where representatives of the Syrian government, rebels, Turkey, Iran, Russia, the United States and Jordan attended a meeting over Syria.
Ja’afari accused Turkey’s delegation and Syrian rebels of trying to disrupt the negotiations by refusing to agree to a communiqué. He said the rebels and their Turkish backers had a “clear will to disrupt the Astana meetings,” and that Ankara must pull its troops out of Syria and close its border to jihadist fighters if it was to be a real guarantor of a Turkish-Russian cease-fire agreed at the end of last year.
The arrival of a downgraded Turkish delegation with the rebels on the last day of the talks in the Kazakh capital also signaled that they were not serious about participating in the talks, Ja’afari said.
The rebels, who initially cast doubt over their participation in the latest meeting, were led by Mohammad Alloush, a leading figure of the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam).
While Turkey backs rebels in the six-year-long war, Russia and Iran back al-Assad.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated during his meeting with U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in Moscow on Feb. 16 that clashes between the Syrian government and moderate opposition forces had fully stopped.
He also stated that the fights were fully eliminated with the help of the conflict sides and the mediators.
“We hope to further build a constructive dialogue with the opposition. All in all, progress we made after Dec. 29 [nationwide cease-fire], progress we have now – this scenario is much better than it used to be. The amount of shelling has significantly fallen, and direct clashes have stopped completely,” Sputnik quoted Shoigu as saying.
A Geneva meeting over Syria under the auspices of de Mistura will be held on Feb. 23.
In Geneva, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland called on parties to allow aid convoys to reach besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria to demonstrate “goodwill” before envoys gather for talks on Feb. 23.
Egeland lamented that not a single U.N.-arranged land convoy has reached any of more than a dozen besieged towns or villages this year, citing a lack of approvals from authorities.
Meanwhile, a co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Asya Abdullah, told AFP on Feb. 15 that Syria peace talks set for next week in Geneva would be a failure unless the Kurds were at the table.
“It’s clear that if we want to resolve the Syrian crisis, everyone must take part,” said Abdullah, after a conference in Moscow involving Kurdish representatives from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
“Any decisions taken without us are ones we will not be required to abide by,” she added, speaking in Kurdish through a Russian translator. “But then, resolving the Syrian crisis will be impossible.”