Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Fifth Round of Astana, by Sophie Mangal

The Fifth Round of Astana: a Couple of Words of the Proposals and of the Preliminary Results

The fifth round of the two-day talks on the settlement of the situation in Syria began in Astana on July 4. Actually, the main topic of the talks is pointing out the true borders of the de-escalation zones. The areas should be defined in the form of a map and be included in the outcome document.

First, it is necessary to reach an agreement on a detailed map with the areas mapped on it. Then the delegates will discuss the implementation of the commitments on establishing control over the zones. The main questions here are what will be under the control (people, order, weapons, ceasefire agreement, humanitarian and other issues) and who will control the areas of 
de-escalation. It is also necessary to negotiate the actions and measures that must be imposed in respect of the non-compliant party of the memorandum.

Another topic of the fifth round of talks in Astana will be the discussion on the establishment of the Syrian National Reconciliation Committee. It is also planned to work out the plan on conducting a
 mine clearance operation of cultural sites in Syria and other architectural monuments and sights that are under the protection of UNESCO and are on the World Heritage List.

On the eve, on July 3, a number of meetings took place at the expert level. They continue at head-of-delegation level in different formats today. The participants of the international talks in Astana concentrate on the preliminary consultations on the first day of the work.

A meeting on the de-escalation areas of the joint working group of the ceasefire guarantors in Syria (that are Russia, Turkey and Iran) was the first on the agenda. Besides, a bilateral meeting between the representatives of Russia and Syria has been already held this morning. Then the meeting of the delegations of Damascus and Iran began. The Head of the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Jaafari and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Jaberi Ansari sat down at the negotiating table. The media were allowed to participate in the protocol part of the meeting and then the talks continued behind closed doors.

There are some other consultations and bilateral meetings scheduled for today. A plenary session is planned on July 5, tentatively after lunch at local time.

Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura also arrived. The U.S. representative at the meeting is Stuart Jones, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Near East affair bureau. It is also reported that nine representatives of 
the Syrian opposition arrived in Astana.

According to Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, the Astana process is currently the only negotiating platform that provides equal opportunities for all the parties interested in negotiation process with guarantor countries. Abdrakhmanov expressed hope that at the end of this meeting in Astana the final document related to the implementation of the memorandum on the creation of de-escalation areas in Syria would be adopted.

To be recalled is that the previous four rounds of meetings on the Syrian settlement were held in Astana on January 23-24February 15-16March 14-15 and May 3-4. The agreement on the joint operational group that should monitor the ceasefire regime in Syria signed by the guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran) and the memorandum on establishing areas of de-escalation in Syria aimed at ending violence, preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Syria have become 
the key outcome of the meetings. The country needs a political settlement of the conflict.