By: Zaman Bajwa
In the capital of Kazakhstan, in just two months, the next round of negotiations on the settlement of the Syrian conflict may take place. This will be the 14th in a row. And such a number of meetings indicate the interest of all parties in the dialogue platform of the Kazakhstan format: there would be no point in such negotiations; it was hardly possible to gather such a number of negotiators. And the last August round, in the media it was called “Astana – 13”, took place.
Syrian television announced a ceasefire in Idlib during negotiations in the capital of Kazakhstan. The event is as long-awaited, but just as fragile. In this province in northwestern Syria, according to various sources, one and a half to three million people live. According to the latest international experts, Idlib is experiencing a major humanitarian crisis. On the official website of the UN, a statement by the Deputy Secretary General of the Organization for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lokok was published, according to him; the events in Idlib are developing according to the worst-case scenario. “The civilian population is paying for the inability of politicians to put an end to violence and achieve compliance with International law, which provides the protection to civilians during hostilities,” he said.
The key idea is the inability of politicians to agree. In this sense, the platform of the capital of Kazakhstan is exactly the place where you can try to find a compromise solution. Moreover, the negotiators in Nur Sultan are interested in a cessation of hostilities in Syria, mainly because this poses a threat to potential security and stability in their countries.
The different sides of the conflict sat down at the negotiating table – a government delegation led by the Permanent Representative of the SAR to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari and the armed opposition, led by Ahmad Al-Touma. Among the guarantor countries, the Russian delegation was headed by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev. The Turkish delegation is Sedat Onal, Deputy Foreign Minister. The Iranian delegation took part, led by Senior Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Asgar Haji. A UN delegation headed by Khavla Matar, UN Deputy Special Representative for Syria, also arrived at the meeting in Kazakhstan. Special Representative Geir O. Pedersen did not come to Nur Sultan because of health problems. Representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and representatives of the Red Cross and Jordan also sat at a round table in the capital of Kazakhstan.
For the first time, Lebanon and Iraq joined the talks in the Astana format. The decision to include delegations of two Middle Eastern countries in the negotiation process was made following the results of the previous meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan. And the interest of official Beirut and Baghdad is quite explainable. The countries – the geographical neighbors of Syria are interested in resolving issues related to the return of Syrian refugees, and indeed, in a reliable and economically stable partner.
But the agreement on Idlib is not the main result of the negotiations in Nur Sultan. It is about creating a constitutional commission on Syria. About its creation, the Russian negotiators to resolve the conflict in Syria announced more than two years ago. The new body was to develop a new constitution for Syria. But the negotiations stalled at the stage of the discussion process of the members of the new body. And for the first time, serious progress in the creation of the commission became known as a result of negotiations in Nur-Sultan. And International experts do not exclude that the process of forming a constitutional commission on Syria could be completed as early as September of this year.
Writer is an Islamabad based Human Rights activist and Journalist. He tweets @zamanbajwaa.