Cease-fire focus on first day of Syria peace talks

Cease-fire focus on first day of Syria peace talks
# 24 January 2017 04:07 (UTC +04:00)

The first day of “productive” peace talks here aimed at ending the Syrian war ended Monday with both sides focused on hashing out "a permanent cease-fire”, representatives said, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

A joint delegation that included Turkish, Russian and the UN representatives met Syrian opposition representatives who submitted a written statement that listed demands for ending violations by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and support groups of a cease-fire. They also want humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas, clearing Syria of Iranian soldiers and militias backed by Tehran and the release of female political prisoners.

The Syrian regime is accused of imprisoning as many as 13,000 women, and the opposition delegation demanded their immediate release.

“After the opening session, we held a productive meeting with the Russian and the Turkish sides, with the presence and coordination of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura,” opposition spokesman at the talks, Yahya al-Aridi, said at a news conference.

The main focus of discussions was to make permanent a cease-fire that took effect Dec. 30. That deal was brokered by Turkey, which backs the opposition, and Russia and Iran, who support the Assad regime.

Assad regime media reported that Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, who was at the meeting, said the government expects the talks to produce a deal that would stop fighting for a "certain" period and groups that signed onto the cease-fire would be distinguished from terror outfits such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Daesh, which have been left out of the deal.

Meanwhile, opposition groups voiced concerns that the regime's 'terrorist' description was too broad and demanded a clearer and monitorable mechanism while implementing the cease-fire.

The Turkish delegation was led by Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Onal while Special Envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov lead the Russian team.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari and U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol also participated.

UN-brokered talks between Assad’s representatives and civilian opposition figures broke down early last year when Russian support turned the war in the regime’s favor.

Chances of success would be "greater" if the parties could agree on a mechanism to control the cease-fire, according to the UN’s special envoy.

"Let's today and tomorrow overcome the problems related to the cease-fire and let's try to make it permanent. Let's see what can be done to build trust between the parties," de Mistura said.

Mohamed Alloush, who heads the Syrian opposition delegation, said the cease-fire needs to be strengthened before any political solution could be reached.

"We will not move on to the second step unless a cease-fire is ensured,” he told reporters after the meeting.

An estimated 400,000 people have been killed and 11 million displaced since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, according to the UN.

Talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday in the Kazakhstan capital.