On January 23 Astana opened Inter-Syrian Peace talks

On January 23 Astana opened Inter-Syrian Peace talks. The meeting was aimed at settling the Syrian armed conflict and complimenting the Geneva Process, but not serving as a substitute to it. The main objective of the event was to extend the ceasefire in Syria reached on December 29, 2016 by Russia and Turkey, allow all the parties involved to discuss the framework to resolve the Syrian crisis and pave the way for the new peace talks in Geneva due to start on February 8, 2017 under the United Nations auspices.

The talks gathered together both the Syrian Government and armed opposition groups. The Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari headed the Syrian Government delegation. The delegations of the guarantors of the negotiations – Russia, Iran and Turkey – were headed by Russian President’s Special Envoy on the Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentiev, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Ansari Jaberi and Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Advisor for the Middle East and Africa Sedat Onal. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura was the main moderator of the talks. The United States was represented by the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol.

Kazakhstan provided a venue for the talks, and offered all other necessary conditions to ensure successful negotiations. At the opening of a plenary session Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov read out an Address of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to the participants of the International Meeting on Syrian Settlement. The actual negotiations were held behind closed doors. Following negotiations, countries guaranteeing the Syria settlement process adopted a Joint Statement on January 24. Delegations of all three countries stressed in the final document that they support the commencement of the talks between the Syrian government and the Syrian armed opposition in Astana on January 23-24. They are confident that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that it can only be solved through diplomatic efforts and political process. It was announced that a trilateral mechanism to ensure full compliance with the ceasefire in Syria will be established. The sides also reiterated their determination to fight against Daesh (ISIL) and Al-Nusra to separate from them armed opposition groups.

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Kazakhstan has urged the international community to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, arguing that military options would only exacerbate the situation. Kazakhstan has remained a neutral mediator throughout the crisis, which has ensured its government is trusted by all sides involved in the conflict. Thus, Astana was chosen as a suitable location to host the Syrian talks. The country has already hosted two rounds of Inter-Syrian consultations involving representatives of the Syrian opposition in May and October of 2015. A number of important agreements were reached during these discussions, including on humanitarian issues, where a consensus was established to create corridors to support the safe passage for the millions of refugees leaving the country. In order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian refugees, Kazakhstan has allocated over $700,000 and has recently provided 500 tons of food as humanitarian assistance.

Although Kazakhstan is not taking part in the negotiation process itself, it reiterates its commitment to continue its efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria and bring lasting peace and security to the Middle East, including through its initiatives at the UN Security Council. Kazakhstan’s priorities as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for 2017-2018 are stated in the Political Address by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.