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After Astana Geneva Again

Astana - neutral territory for peace talks on Syria 2017 (Courtesy photo for education only)

Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations in New York, briefs journalists on the Intra-Syrian talks taking place 20 April 2016 Geneva, Switzerland (UN photo by Elma Okic)

Vladimir Putin UN photo Rick Bajornas, June 2016, Saint Petersbourg Russia

Stephane Dujarric UN spokesman (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

Astana - neutral territory for peace talks on Syria 2017 (Courtesy photo for education only)

Astana – neutral territory for peace talks on Syria 2017 (Courtesy photo for education only)

By Erol Avdovic – UNITED NATIONS (WEBPUBLICAPRESS) – The United Nations has expressed hope to bring back Syrian Peace talks under its roof to Geneva after a rocky start and partial success of the negotiations in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

While this was an important step to end the six-year civil war, nobody — rightly so had a courage to pronounce the Astana was the beginning of the end. Rather, the last round of negotiations showed the limitations on the side of the main organizers – mainly Russia and Turkey. And there are notorious obstacles that are reflected in the diverse range of opposition presented there which still sharply criticizes the regime in Damascus, but do not speak a common language. Unfortunately It also does not promise that the guns will silent in Syria with the political solution in sight.

Americans are still waiting

Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations (Photo by Loey Felipe)

Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations (Photo by Loey Felipe)

More than anything Astana has shown that with such a cautious abstinence United States shown at the negotiating table — it will not be easy to reach the political solution in Syria. According to the UN diplomatic source the US ambassador in Kazakhstan was only an observer at the negotiations in Astana, and he apparently happily gloated because Russians are sitting on the hot seat with no visible results.

While Americans maintain the diplomatic silence on the next round of negotiations — other Western diplomats talk even more about the need of political solutions in Syria.

Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the United Kingdom affirmed that position for Webpublicapress in New York suggesting — next month (February) is crucial for next high diplomatic gathering on Syria.

“The UK has long advocated for a political solution to the conflict in Syria. There can be no military solution if there is to be peace. But the foundations for the political process are fragile.  The prospects in the next 3-4 months for translating the latest ceasefire into political transition remain remote,” Rycroft said.

“We urge all of the parties to abide by the ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia and to get back into a political process, starting with the meeting in Astana and leading up to the UN talks in Geneva next month,” UK’s ambassador to the UN told Webpublicapress correspondent.

At the United Nations Headquarters in New York  UN officials fought for the right words to articulate what direction the diplomatic front moves.

Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for the Secretary General Antonio Guterres told Webpublicapress United Nations indeed have ambition to resume Syrian talks rather sooner then latter. While UN premises in New York or Geneva proved to be not “the place” to stop the Syrian carnage, the UN is actually hoping that this time will be different, as elsewhere – in Astana — it was even less success.

Asked weather special envoy on Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura has recognized that UN doesn’t have a leading role, but pushing for return of the negotiators back under the UN auspices in Geneva — Dujarric struggled to fully articulate, but said “that’s exactly” what he is doing.

“I think what he (Mr. De Mistura)… if you look at his comments, it’s exactly what he said.  He said he’s… you know… what he hopes to get from this… talks in Astana is a consolidation of the cessation of hostilities, of the ceasefire, to enable greater access, obviously, to humanitarian aid,” Dujarric told Webpublicapress.

Stephane Dujarric UN spokesman (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

Stephane Dujarric UN spokesman (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

“And that would lead these… this consolidation would lead… it would be used for further genuine relaunching of political negotiation to address core issues of the conflict in Geneva.”

When pressed to describe UN job in Astana and how Mr. Demistura sow the negotiation in Kazakhstan Dujarric confessed – “I don’t know how to use fewer words.”

“He sees the negotiations in Astana as consolidating the cessation of hostilities, and that would be a jumping‑off point to lead to genuine political negotiations in Geneva,” chief UN spokesman told WPP.

Related Webpublicapress story: How Astana was chosen as venue choice for peace talks on Syria

The talks between the government in Damascus and Syrian rebels occurred after participants were summoned to negotiate possible peace first time with this seriousness since the bloody conflict erupted in 2011. Astana talks came a month after Syrian forces retaking full control of Aleppo.

 

Tired of war

 

Syrian horror  (BBC  TV image photo for education only)

Syrian horror (BBC TV image photo for education only)

Cease-fire brokered by Moscow and Ankara was signed late last month bringg hope diplomats can resume where the warriors stopped. In addition Iran was brought to picture as an old supporter of Syrian government with the recognized leverage for the peace talks.

The warring  parties faced each other at the negotiating table and sat to also carefully listen Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov who delivered the strong speech.

Syrian government was headed by their UN ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari who arrived from New York. At the opposite side there were fourteen representatives of armed opposition which soon vowed to continue fighting if talks  in Astana fail. Because of that there were few, especially among the diplomats who wanted to openly admit the negotiations have not brought anything radically new. Rather, the new diplomatic adventure began with no end in sight.

Yet, one of the good things was that in Astana, at least the final exclusion of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra front, was reaffirmed.

But some say  a good sign was a shown willingness to sit down and talk with peace in mind. There was a sort  of “visible wish in the air” as diplomats described it — to end the war of whom are all tired and worst of all which have produced hundreds of thousands of human casualties.

And that kind of thinking is noticeable at the United Nations in New York.

Unfortunately some of negotiators in Astana did not show that spirit it in their speeches; some of them were still threatening war rhetoric.

Syrian UN ambassador Al-Jaafari denounced as “provocative” and “insolent” a speech delivered by one of the opposition leader. Syrian diplomat said the speech “did not rise to the level of the gathering of diplomats attending the conference.”

Obviously, the diplomacy has yet to fight its place opposing warring parties with different arguments from the arguments of force. And the language was not quite diplomatic as well.

 

Harsh rethoric

 

Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations in New York, briefs journalists on the Intra-Syrian talks taking place 20 April 2016 Geneva, Switzerland (UN photo by Elma Okic)

Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations in New York, briefs journalists on the Intra-Syrian talks taking place 20 April 2016 Geneva, Switzerland (UN photo by Elma Okic)

In fact, ambassador Al-Jaafari repeatedly called rebel delegation – “terrorist armed groups.” At one moment Syrian diplomat confessed the agenda for peace was still far away  “not ready yet” since main sponsors of the talks Russia, Turkey and also Iran didn’t produce it yet.

As experts said that “harsh and uncompromising tone of al-Jaafari’s remarks was a bad omen” for the Astana talks.

Journalist actually witnessed Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov said the Staffan de Mistura unsuccessfully mediated between the Damascus delegates and and the rebel representatives in Astana.

According to the media sources De Mistura had “the support of the Iranian delegation in contacts with Syrian government while the Turkish delegation also helped de Mistura to reach out to the rebels in Astana.

UN-brokered talks between Damascus and Syrian opposition also broke in 2016, when Russia openly entered the war in Bashar al-Assad’s favor. Although it was a strategic move that many could have anticipated, it appears that the entry of the Russians in Syrian war surprised the Americans. Until negotiations in Astana, it looked as if they were still in shock.

And with the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, this is confusion, especially among American friends only deepened. It also remains unclear what will Washington undertake during the next round of negotiations, which is inevitable after more unsuccessful than successful Astana talks.

Vladimir Putin UN photo Rick Bajornas, June 2016, Saint Petersbourg Russia

Vladimir Putin UN photo Rick Bajornas, June 2016, Saint Petersbourg Russia

With two sides kept maintaining different positions on most issues, as almost all news sources reported from the Kazakhstan talks — UN is on the move again. But in addition to Washington at the headquarters in New York now carefully listen to what they say in Moscow.

US president Donald Trump was scheduled to have first telephone talk with his Russian contra part president Vladimir Putin only the last weekend in January, according to the well informed US media source.

 

UN ready – De Mistura talks

 

In the meantime Russian president Putin has already spoken to German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande about Syrian settlement talks in Astana, the Kremlin confirmed.The UN carefully follow the that multilateral trying showing pleasure to give each of those involved earned credit, but also to retain its own diplomatic initiative.

After two days talks in Astana UN envoy De Mistura said he is thankful to all of them, but mentioned Iran,

Staffan de Mistura, United Nations, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria at a press conference on the latest developments in Syria. 12 October 2015. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferrés)

Staffan de Mistura, United Nations, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria at a press conference on the latest developments in Syria. 12 October 2015. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferrés)

the Russian Federation and Turkey, for their “determination to build on their achievements of last month when they assumed the responsibility of guarantors of a ceasefire regime in Syria,” Webpublicapress reported.

He said the “immediate priority” of Astana peace talks “was to ensure the consolidation of the ceasefire,” he said.  ”Syrian people are desperate in their need for an end to the ongoing brutal and bloody conflict.”

De Mistura was on his way to New York to consult the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and brief the Security Council, as part of his preparations ahead of the February negotiations in Geneva.

“We cannot allow another ceasefire to dissolve because of a lack of a political process,” he said. ”Now is the time for the international community in all its dimensions to come together and support one integrated political negotiating process.”

“And we move to Geneva,” UN’s Stephane Dujarric told Webpublicapress.

Some UN diplomats say as well — the sooner the better.

 

 

 

 

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