Syria peace talks in Astana delayed by one day: Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan says a new round of Syria peace negotiations, which was slated to open in Astana on Wednesday, has been delayed until tomorrow.
“The beginning of the next high-level session, within the framework of the Astana process on the Syrian settlement, has been moved to noon of February 16, 2017,” the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s press service announced on Wednesday.
The statement came hours after Syria’s state-run television network reported that the opening of the negotiations between Damascus and opposition groups had been put off until Thursday, because the delegations of the armed opposition and Turkey had not arrived in Kazakhstan’s capital yet.
The fresh round of Astana talks on the Syria conflict were originally scheduled to be held on February 15 and 16 and in a behind-closed-doors format, followed by a joint news conference with representatives from attending delegations in attendance.
Delegations from Russia, Iran, Syrian government and the UN have already arrived in the host country. The negotiations will be mediated by Tehran, Moscow and Ankara.
Damascus has confirmed that it will be represented by its Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari.
Moscow has sent Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, while Tehran has dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari.
Russia’s Sputnik news agency, citing spokesman for the US Embassy in Kazakhstan Wren Elhai, reported that officials from the diplomatic mission will represent the United States as an observer state in the Astana peace talks on Syria.
Meanwhile, Jaberi Ansari held talks with Ja’afari in Astana late on Tuesday. The pair exchanged viewpoints on the latest issues surrounding the forthcoming negotiations on Syria conflict resolution in addition to the agenda of the talks.
The first round of Astana talks in January brought together representatives of the Damascus government and opposition groups for the first time in nearly six years of crisis in Syria.
Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed at the end of the talks to establish a mechanism aimed at monitoring the ceasefire that took effect across Syria on December 30, 2016.
Syria’s warring sides are also set to hold a separate round of talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on February 20 under United Nations auspices.
Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syrian crisis until then.
The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.