Syrian Opposition Groups Meet in Kazakhstan’s Capital

ASTANA – Representatives of some Syrian opposition groups began their talks in Kazakhstan’s capital on May 25, the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on May 25, saying the talks are expected to continue until May 27.

590x400-ZdanieMFA“Today, the whole world is anxiously watching the events taking place in the Middle East,” the Foreign Ministry said in its announcement. “The situation in Syria has become one of the most serious crises in the world and has gone beyond a regional problem. In order to resolve the situation in the country, efforts must be consolidated. Kazakhstan supports the ongoing efforts of all interested parties inside and outside Syria under the auspices of the United Nations which are aimed at the early ending of violence and bloodshed, overcoming the acute humanitarian disaster, as well as determining the political future of the country through dialogue and reconciliation.”

Earlier this spring, representatives of the Syrian opposition publicly asked Kazakhstan to mediate in talks on the Syrian crisis.

“Being concerned about the severe humanitarian situation in the country and keeping a firm position that a resolution to the conflict is only possible through peaceful means and only by the Syrians themselves, Kazakhstan has decided to provide a platform for dialogue between representatives of the Syrian opposition and has worked to create the necessary conditions for successful talks,” the Foreign Ministry in Astana said, providing no details on the agenda of the talks or the composition of the parties to the discussion.

“At the same time, Kazakhstan hopes for the continuation and the effective conclusion of the negotiations among Syrians and other interested parties in the framework of the Geneva process and expects that the upcoming consultations in Astana will be an additional help for the success of the negotiations in Geneva,” the Foreign Ministry added.

“The very fact of holding Syrian opposition talks in Astana demonstrates the level of trust that Kazakhstan enjoys as a neutral state interested in a peaceful settlement in Syria,” said Timur Shaimergenov, deputy director of the Astana-based Library of the First President – Leader of the Nation, in an interview for this story. “Being four years old now, the conflict in that country does not seem any closer to the end. Evidently, the key problem lies in the lack of understanding and the resulting fight within the Syrian elites. This favours long-term destabilisation and the exploitation of the conflict by third parties.”

“Now it is hard to say who fights whom in Syria – the Assad government against opposition or opposition groups with each other, religious extremists against moderates and with each other, or is it now mainly an ISIS war to launch the Caliphate?” Shaimergenov continued. “This protracted war has become a serious problem not only for Syria and its neighbours, but also for many countries in the Muslim world. The original internal struggle for power with which the Syrian conflict began in 2011, and which almost turned into a geopolitical confrontation, has been all but forgotten today, and it makes no sense. Today, it is important that there is an understanding between the Syrian elites that reaching peace in their land is squarely in their own hands. Most importantly, the dialogue has to lead to some positive results. Let us hope that the successful experience of the talks over Iran’s nuclear programme in Kazakhstan two years ago can serve as inspiration for the beginning of a proper intra-Syrian dialogue.”

The talks are taking place at one of Astana’s hotels behind closed doors. Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Iran, Bagdad Amreyev, a fluent Arab speaker and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, is moderating the talks.

It is expected that participants in the talks will give a press conference upon the completion of the talks at a place and time yet to be announced.