By Kamila Aliyeva
The next round of intra-Syrian talks in Astana depends on guarantor countries, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on March 13.
“The format, agenda depend on the views of the guarantor countries Russia, Turkey and Iran. They determine the format of the meeting, the agenda," Ria Novosti quoted Abdrakhmanov as saying.
He said that delegates to the talks began arriving in the Kazakh capital for the third round of negotiations scheduled for March 14-15.
Russia has confirmed its participation at intra-Syrian talks in Astana this week in addition to deputy foreign ministers from Iran and Turkey, he said.
"We received an official message from Russia, the Russian president's special envoy, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative will take part. Besides, deputy foreign ministers from Turkey and Iran are scheduled to take part in the meeting," Abdrakhmanov told Kazakh lawmakers during a government hour session.
The first round of intra-Syrian Astana talks brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran took place on January 23-24 and gathered together representatives of the Syrian armed opposition and government for the first time. The parties agreed to create a trilateral mechanism to monitor the ceasefire in Syria, which was established on December 30.
The second round of Astana talks took place on February 15-16 and resulted in the agreement of the participants to set up a ceasefire monitoring group, encompassing Iran, Russia and Turkey, that would report to the United Nations.
The latest, fourth round of Geneva talks under the auspices of the United Nations concluded on March 3, with the parties agreeing on a number of separate "baskets" to be addressed during the next rounds, including the issues of governance, constitution, elections and counterterrorism.
The participation of representatives of official Damascus and the armed opposition of Syria in the meeting in Astana is the prerogative of the guarantor countries - Russia, Iran and Turkey, he stated.
“As for the Syrian government and the armed opposition, it is for the guarantor countries to ensure their participation,” Abdrakhmanov said.
He recalled that earlier “some representatives of opposition expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the ceasefire is being implemented, as well as with the situation concerning the prisoner release and lifting the siege in districts adjacent to the areas defined by the ceasefire agreements.”
Abdrahmanov stressed that the United Nations Security Council has praised the peacemaking potential of the Astana process aimed at settling the Syrian crisis as well as its role in strengthening the Syrian ceasefire.
Earlier, the Syrian armed opposition has put forward a number of conditions for its participation in the upcoming talks in Astana.
"The Syrian revolutionary forces delegation has received an invitation to take part in the third Astana meeting, but we are setting forth the following conditions for holding any round of talks," the statement reads.
The delegation wants the meeting to start after March 20 in order to assess the establishment of ceasefire regimes in the Al Waer and East Ghouta areas, the deadline for which has been set for March 20.
Armed conflict continues in Syria since March 2011. Government troops are confronted by militants of different armed rebel groups. Russia has begun airstrikes on terrorist facilities in Syria since 30 September 2015. The Russian military involvement follows an official request from President Bashar Assad to President Vladimir Putin.
The UN has repeatedly tried and failed to end the Syrian conflict, which has killed 300,000 and displaced 11 million since it began five years ago.