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Syrian negotiations in Kazakhstan fail to reach agreement on constitutional committee

Russian presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentyev speaks to the press following negotiations (Anadolu)

Date of publication: 26 April, 2019

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Negotiations in the Kazakh capital, attended by the regime and the opposition, as well as Turkey, Iran and Russia have ended without agreement on a major source of dispute.

Two-day talks on Syria backed by Iran, Russia and Turkey concluded in Kazakhstan Friday without notable progress on forming a constitutional committee to drive a political settlement in the war-wracked country. 

A joint statement released by the three co-sponsors said the meeting had broached the issue of the constitutional committee with the United Nations' Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. 

However, further talks in Geneva would be needed, it added. 

The parties were committed to "the establishment and the convening of the Constitutional Committee at the earliest in Geneva, holding the next round of consultations in Geneva and to support the Special Envoy's effort", the statement said. 

In comments after the end of the first day of talks on Thursday, Russia's chief negotiator Aleksandr Lavrentyev said that "several unclear issues" were slowing the formation of a constitutional committee but did not specify. 

The constitutional committee has been a major sticking point in negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition. The regime has previously rejected a UN plan to form a 150-person committee consisting of 50 delegates selected by the regime, 50 selected by the opposition, and 50 selected by the UN.

Iran, Russia and Turkey also used the occasion of the negotiations in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan to reiterate criticism of the United States for recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

 

The three countries condemned the move as a "rude violation of sovereignty" that would "create a threat to peace and security in the Middle East," they said in a joint statement.

Soon after the conclusion of talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Russian airstrikes had killed ten civilians in the towns of Hawash and Kafrnabel in rebel-held Idlib province. Russia and the regime bomb Idlib province on a regular basis despite a ceasefire agreement signed in September 2018 and guaranteed by Turkey, Iran, and Russia itself.

Russia is seen as the lead sponsor of the talks in Kazakhstan, which have been taking place since January 2017. This process has largely sidelined a previously existing UN-led negotiating process taking place in Geneva. The joint statement also said Iraq and Lebanon would be invited to the next talks in Kazakhstan on Syria in July.

The capital of Kazakhstan was called Astana until last month, when it was renamed Nur-Sultan after the country's outgoing president.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Syrian conflict and millions more displaced. The conflict began in 2011 following brutal repression of protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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