Astana Talks Agenda, March 14-15

According to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, the schedule of the negotiations included preliminary consultations on Tuesday and a plenary session on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Russian delegation met with their Syrian counterparts as well as with the delegations from the United Nations and Jordan. The trilateral talks between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran had also taken place in the Kazakh capital.

“Indeed there are many issues aside from the cessation of the hostilities, these are the various aspects of monitoring this regime, these are the issues of elaboration of some mechanism to punish the violators. Another interesting issue raised by the Russian side is the establishment of a working group to exchange the detainees held by the conflicting side,” Lavrentyev told reporters.

He added that the Russian side had also raised the issue of the opposition delegation’s absence during the consultations with the Turkish representatives at the talks.

“This issue was raised directly with the Turkish side regarding the issues as to why the Syrian armed opposition did not arrive at the talks. Turkey is a guarantor state of fulfilling of the obligations adopted by the Syrian opposition in accordance with the agreement on December 29, 2016, but it is not a guarantor of one of the sides refusing to attend a meeting for one reason or another,” Lavrentyev told a press conference.

According to the official, there is no need to focus attention on the absence of the delegation, adding that Russia did not see any possible complications for the Geneva talks on Syria due to the decision of the armed opposition.

“There is progress, it was there at Astana-1 and Astana-2 too as well. Even now, despite the absence of the Syrian armed opposition, the work on many documents continues rather effectively,” the official said.

POTENTIAL PROLONGATION

However, a source told Sputnik that the talks could be extended as the delegation of the opposition could arrive in the Kazakh capital Wednesday morning.

“Yes, they could be [extended]. We were informed that they could arrive in the morning, then they will be extended,” the source said.

According to a source in Russia’s delegation to the talks, the presence of the opposition was important, because “without the opposition, no document on separating terrorists [from the armed groups] can be signed.”

A source in the Russian delegation also told Sputnik that a paper on international cooperation in demining the ancient Syria’s city of Palmyra could be adopted during the third round of talks. However, yet another source in one of the delegations to the Astana negotiations told Sputnik that it would be not an agreement, but an appeal to the United Nations on the issue.

“This is not an agreement, this is an appeal to the United Nations, to all the countries in the world to assist with demining, allocate money. Such a question cannot be resolved in one-two days,” the source said.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said that Kazakhstan was ready to provide the platform for the Syrian settlement talks in Astana if the guarantor countries of the Syrian ceasefire, Russia, Iran and Turkey, ask to prologue the negotiations.

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