By Kamila Aliyeva
A new meeting on Syrian settlement in Astana officially kicked off with a bilateral meeting between the UN and Russian delegations on March 14. The Russian delegation also met with the delegation from Jordan.
Russian-Iranian and Russian-Turkish consultations are planned for later in the day. A trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran meeting will complete the first day's program of negotiations, Sputnik reported.
The Astana talks are taking place on March 14-15. A plenary session will take place on March 15.
The Syrian armed opposition made a final decision to not participate in the third round of Astana talks on the Syrian settlement, the delegation’s representative, Osama Abu Zeid, told Sputnik.
"After the consultations, we made a final decision against participation. This is our strong position. We will not participate [in the talks]," Abu Zeid said.
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.
Meanwhile, the U.S. does not exclude the possibility of cooperation with Russia on Syria, U.S. presidential spokesman Sean Spicer stated.
Spicer was asked to confirm the publications of a number of media that the U.S. is practically not ready to cooperate with Russia during military operations in Syria.
"As I mentioned a couple days ago, Secretary Mattis was briefing the principals, and that plan is continuing to evolve. So I'm not going to start to rule out one country. But I think the President has been very clear in the past that if a country shares our commitment to defeating ISIS and we can work with them in an area of shared, mutual concern, then we will do so," Spicer said.
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.