The third round of Syria reconciliation talks in Astana is being extended for one day in the anticipation of arrival of Syrian armed opposition representatives to the negotiations, with the talks participants expected to discuss differentiation between terrorists and armed groups, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s Asia and Africa Department Director General AidarbekTumatov told Sputnik. “Tomorrow, on the 16th, the talks will be continued with a military aspect included, which, I think, is important, given the issues of terrorist groups’ location, including that of the IS and the Jabhat al-Nusra, and the location of moderate opposition are expected to be discussed”,Tumatov said. The future of the document will depend on the participants of the talks, but the humanitarian aspect is the most important in this process, the official added.
Talks aimed at ending the war in Syria have started in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana without the opposition, leaving little hope for a breakthrough. Syrian opposition groups on March 13 said they would not attend the talks, accusing the Syrian government and its backer Russia of failing to adhere to a cease-fire brokered in December. Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian government envoy, said the absence of the opposition showed that Turkey was breaking its commitments. Ankara supports some Sunni Arab rebel factions seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Reacting to the opposition’s refusal to attend the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the peace process was “hugely complex”.
The UN’s human rights chief has described the Syrian conflict as the “worst man-made disaster since World War II,” citing widespread torture and a “tidal wave of bloodshed and atrocity.” “Today, in a sense the entire country has become a torture chamber: a place of savage horror and absolute injustice”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad al-Hussein said in a statement on March 14. He called for the release of tens of thousands of prisoners being held by the warring sides in Syria and said that bringing the perpetrators of crimes, including torture, to justice was necessary for reaching a lasting peace. Zeid also said efforts to end “this senseless carnage” had been repeatedly vetoed, an apparent reference to Russia and China’s steps to protect President Bashar al-Assad by blocking Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday that the recent negotiations held in the Kazakh capital of Astana on the Syrian crisis have been “successful” despite attempts by some countries to depict them as a failure. He also emphasized that there were differences of opinion among the representatives of the Syrian opposition groups, which made the Turkish delegation to participate in the talks with delay and at a lower level. He expressed the hope that the process of Astana negotiations and efforts by Iran, Russia and Turkey would lead to a swift end to a crisis that has engulfed Syria for six years. Speaking to the IRIB at the conclusion of the Astana talks earlier on Friday, Head of Iran’s diplomatic team in the Astana talks hailed a “calmer and more conciliatory” atmosphere in the peace talks than the previous round.
The General Directorate of General Security on Wednesday announced the arrest of three people who were tasked by a Syria-based terrorist group to scout possible targets for “bomb and vehicle-ramming attacks” in Lebanon. In a statement, General Security said “Lebanese national M. Kh., his Lebanese wife H. H. and Palestinian refugee M. M. were arrested for belonging to a terrorist group, communicating with senior officials in it, and attempting to leave for Syria to join its ranks”. “During interrogation, they confessed to the charges, admitting that they belong to a terrorist group and that Palestinian refugee M. M. had recruited the aforementioned couple on behalf of the group” the statement added. The Lebanese couple “traveled to Turkey with the aim of entering Syria to join the wife’s relatives who fight alongside the terrorist group, but their attempt failed after they were arrested by Turkish authorities and sent back to Lebanon”. After arriving in Lebanon, Lebanese national M. Kh. communicated with his Syria-based brother-in-law A. H. who linked him to one of the group’s security handlers, General Security added. The handler tasked him with “collecting information and identifying figures or gatherings for possible bomb attacks, suicide operations or vehicle-ramming attacks that can be labeled as ‘quick forays’” the statement said.
All the armed Syrian opposition factions in the besieged districts of opposition-held eastern Aleppo have decided to dissolve their individual organisations, and will now instead reform as a newly created “Army of Aleppo”, opposition forces have declared. Although the opposition has previously united their command structures, notably leading to a brief breaking of the regime’s siege on eastern Aleppo, this is the first time that they have completely unified as a single entity. Meanwhile, the President of the Aleppo local council issued calls pleading for the Syrian regime assault to pause and for a corridor to be created to allow civilians wishing to flee the violence in Syria’s largest city safe passage.