No progress in talks on Syrian constitutional committee

Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev attends a session of the peace talks on Syria in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2019

No progress in talks on Syrian constitutional committee

  • Opposition blames Assad regime for stalemate

JEDDAH: Two-day talks on Syria concluded on Friday in Astana, Kazakhstan, without notable progress on forming a constitutional committee to drive a political settlement in the war-torn country.

A joint statement by the three cosponsors — Iran, Russia and Turkey — said the meeting had broached the issue of the constitutional committee with the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. Further talks in Geneva would be needed, it added.

Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi blamed the Assad regime for the stalemate in the talks, telling Arab News: “It doesn’t want a political solution.”

He said: “The regime in particular is obstructing the formation of the constitutional committee in accordance with UN resolution 2254. The regime gets support from Iran in creating hurdles.”

He added: “Russia seems to consider itself a substitute to the UN, when in fact the UN should be the one in charge and the facilitator of negotiations and implementing (resolution) 2254.”

Al-Aridi said the Astana process had a two-fold goal from the start. “The military aspect … was aborted into something called de-escalation zones, but the regime and its supporters turned them into escalation zones,” he added.

“The humanitarian aspect was to establish confidence-building measures, but the regime didn’t do that either.”

Al-Aridi said the issue of the release of prisoners from the regime’s jails was insisted upon in every Astana round, but the regime failed to act.

“Russia said it tried over 300 kinds of weapons on Syrian soil, which means it’s very much for military action, but in the media they portray themselves as favoring a political solution,” he added. “If there’s any terrorism that needs to be fought, it’s the state terrorism of the regime.”

He said “cunning” Iran, which has “a vicious plan for the region,” is out to destroy the Syrian social fabric with its militias.

Bahia Mardini, a human rights campaigner and founder of Syrian House, an organization dedicated to helping Syrians in the UK, told Arab News: “It’s clear that there’s disagreement between the guarantor countries (Iran, Russia and Turkey) over Syria, and that the Russian-American conflict over Syria is still there.”

She urged the international community “to find a real solution that will consolidate democracy and establish a future for Syria on the basis of international resolutions.”

She added: “We call for an end to the suffering of the Syrians … and their participation in building and redrawing the future through a political solution that will lead to the implementation of (resolution) 2254, all relevant international resolutions and the Geneva Declaration to restore the unity of Syrian soil and heal wounds.”

Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Moscow after convoy hit in Syria

Updated 44 min 14 sec ago

Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Moscow after convoy hit in Syria

  • The surprise visit comes as the forces of President Bashar Assad made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest
  • The talks, on Tuesday, will take place during the Maks international air show – about 40 kilometers from Moscow

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Moscow on Tuesday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the presidency said in a statement, days after a Turkish convoy was hit by an air strike in Syria.
The surprise visit comes as the forces of President Bashar Assad made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest and upped the stakes with Turkey in its months-long offensive backed by Russia.
Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Moscow, the presidency said, without giving further details.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the Putin-Erdogan meeting on August 27 to the Russian agencies.
He told the Interfax news agency that the talks would take place during the Maks international air show – about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Moscow.
Turkey is a vocal opponent of Assad in Damascus and instead backs rebels fighting for his ouster.
But Ankara last year struck a deal with Moscow to protect the Idlib province from a massive government offensive.
Turkish officials on Monday “strongly” condemned an air strike on its military convoy heading through Idlib province, saying it was a violation of agreements with Syria.
Ankara blamed “regime forces” for the attack which it said killed three civilians, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was carried out by Syrian and Russian air forces, and was aimed at hindering the convoy’s advance through Idlib province.
The announcement of the visit also comes shortly after Erdogan and Putin on Friday agreed to “activate mutual efforts” to ease the situation in Idlib, according to the Kremlin.
“They agreed to activate mutual efforts with the goal of liquidating the terrorist threat coming from this region,” during a phone call initiated by Erdogan, it said.
According to the Turkish presidency, Erdogan told the Russian leader regime forces’ attacks in Idlib “very seriously” threatened Turkey’s national security and led to “a grave humanitarian crisis.”
“These attacks damage the efforts to regulate the Syrian conflict,” it said.
Erdogan is set to host Putin and Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, for a summit on Syria in Ankara on September 16.
Iran and Russia are allies of Assad, but work closely with Turkey for a political solution to the conflict.
Since late April, Syria and Russia have upped their bombardment of the extremist-ruled Idlib region of some three million people, killing around 900 civilians.
Idlib sits on the Turkish border.
One of Turkey’s 12 observation posts set up along the front line between government forces and the extremists and their rebel allies last year were surrounded by Syrian troops this week.
That drew Turkey’s wrath, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that Turkish troops would not leave the observation post.