Astana talks second round: Turkey and Syria at loggerheads

Second round of Astana talks were held on 16 February 2017 in Kazakh capital Astana

The second round of Syria peace talks in Kazakh capital Astana ended on Thursday, however no joint statement was issued after the meeting, which according to reports was a less than enthusiastic affair compared to the first round in January when a ceasefire was brokered.

Bashar al-Jaafari, heading the Syrian Arab Republic delegation criticised the armed opposition for their late arrival and their backers Turkey for lacking a delegation of heavy-weight names. Ankara was also criticised for violations of Syrian sovereignty and for facilitating the entry of armed groups into Syria across the shared border.

“Turkey can’t play both roles of causing a fire and fighting it at the same time,” said al-Jaafari according to Syrian state news agency SANA. Syria wants Turkey to withdraw forces from its territory and respect the statement of the first round of Astana meetings in January that affirmed the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, he added.

Mohammad Alloush, spokesperson for the opposition and a prominent figure of the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) coalition of Salafist groups backed by Turkey, said the meeting “didn’t achieve anything practical.”

Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to set up a joint monitoring group to try to ensure compliance with the fragile ceasefire and to separate opposition groups from entities such as the Islamic State (IS) and the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front).

United Nations Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who attended the first round of talks in January, this time chose Moscow and a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead. Russian achievements in Astana would have weighed in heavily on the UN-led talks in Geneva on 23 February.