The 11th Astana talks were held on 28-29 November at Astana, Kazakistan. All the three guarantor states—Russia, Iran and Turkey along with the Syrian government and the armed opposition, as well as Jordan – an observer country – participated. United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura also participated in the meeting. The US did not attend the meeting.
The outcome of the meeting was not fruitful. It is because the parties could not consent on one of the important issues that they were supposed to discuss and conclude upon. In the month of October, a proposal for the formation of a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution was laid out. However, after the two-day talks, no consent could be arrived on the proposal. Syria has been facing a stalemate in the formation of the committee since the last 10 months. United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Mistura commented on the failure of the formation as a ‘missed opportunity’ for the people of Syria. The action plan was for the establishment of a credible, balanced and inclusive, Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated constitutional committee.
Apart from the formation of the new Syrian constitution, the guarantor states and the other parties also discussed on the failure of the 10-week-old truce in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib after confrontations between rebels and government early this week threatened to derail the Sochi The discussions were also on creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as post-conflict reconstruction in the war-torn country. The participants also denounced the militant groups’ activities of firing shells filled with chlorine gas at Idlib this week.
During the talks, Russia, Iran and Turkey rejected “all desperate attempts” by foreign-backed militant groups to undermine the sovereignty of the Syrian nation. They along with the other participants rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism. They expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.
During the talk, the Syrian government accused Turkey for not being serious regarding the resolution of the problem. It said that Turkey is the main cause for the ongoing hostilities along with US, UK and France. Ankara is been charged for supporting the terrorist groups in Syria, including Idlib. Turkey has denied the accusations and has reiterated their commitment towards the de-escalation and stabilization in Idlib and the overall country. Russia appreciated Turkey’s help and support towards implementation of the Sochi agreement of September. The Russian foreign ministry said that terrorist groups like Jabat al-Nusra is trying to derail Ankara’s efforts in helping the Syrian government. It also pointed out that these non-state actors are also trying to disrupt the cooperation between Russia and Turkey. Though the two countries will not allow to disrupt their cooperation however, the discomfort in Ankara is evident regarding the Kurdish participation in the resolution of the Syrian crisis.
After the end of the two-day talks, the three guarantor states—Russia, Iran and Turkey came up with a joint statement. The document confirms the readiness to fully implement the Memorandum on stabilization in Idlib and apply further efforts to launch the Syrian constitutional committee. The 12th round of Astana talks will be held in February 2019. They began in January 2017 and have paralleled UN efforts in Geneva.
The Astana talks have regularly been taking place since 2017. This format is meant to complement the UN-led peace process. Despite, the 11 rounds of talk, there has been no fruitful solution towards the ending of the devastating plight of the Syrian people. It is because of the vested interests of all the stakeholders who are not genuinely interested in resolving the crisis.
Russia, Iran and Turkey are taking the imitative because of their stakes in the country and the region.
*Dr. Indrani Talukdar is a Research Fellow at ICWA, New Delhi.
Disclaimer: The views are that of the author’s and not of the Council.