Opposition groups bring up provocative, unrealistic issues in Astana talks: Syria envoy

January 23, 2017 7:40 pm
’s UN ambassador and head of the Damascus delegation in the Astana talks, Bashar al-Ja’afari, has slammed the delegates of foreign-sponsored militant groups over raising “unrelated, provocative and unrealistic” issues during the negotiations.
Ja’afari told reporters in the Kazakh capital on Monday afternoon that the participants in the meeting had been astounded by “unethical and irresponsible” remarks from opposition.
The Syrian diplomat said opposition representatives surprisingly defended the war crimes committed by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, a terrorist group in Wadi Barada valley, which has been rocked by fierce clashes since December 2016. The government forces have been fighting in the area, located on the Damascus outskirts, against Takfiri militants, who have damaged the water processing facilities there and cut water flow to some 5.5 million people in the capital and its suburbs.
“These representatives supported the war crimes committed by al-Nusra Front elements in Syria, and lambasted the operations of the Syrian army soldiers, whom were poisoned. They described water intoxication as justifiable and permissible.
“Any observer or journalist would view what happened as a criminal act. This is very provocative. It would undermine and misrepresent any previous agreements, and is not of course suitable for efforts that have been made to ensure Syrian crisis resolution,” Ja’afari pointed out.

Representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups along with other attendees take part in the first session of the Syria peace talks at Rixos President Hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan, on January 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Syrian envoy further noted that delegates from opposition groups are seeking to undermine the intra-Syrian talks in Astana, and frustrate efforts that have been made to end the nearly six-year-old conflict in Syria.
He underlined that the main points of discussion at the Astana meeting have not started yet, stressing that the Syrian government representatives would not be provoked and be part of the scenario that will lead to the failure of the talks in Kazakhstan.
“We came to Astana to fulfill and implement the provisions of the agreement struck on December 29, 2016. We should be acting on the basis of the agreement. This is after all the framework for the meetings and talks in Astana,” Ja’afari highlighted.
The Syrian diplomat also criticized the stubbornness of envoys from opposition groups, saying, “These people are not professional in . They have no idea what the level and significance of the occasion are.”
Ja’afari also expressed surprise about the delegates’ support for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, which is not part of the ceasefire agreement and has been labeled as terrorist by the UN Security Council.
UN Syria envoy urges parties in Astana to reinforce ceasefire
Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has called on representatives from the Syrian government as well as opposition groups to help reinforce the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (C) and his deputy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy (R) arrive to attend the first session of the Syria peace talks at Rixos President Hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan, on January 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The deal came into force at midnight (2200 GMT) on December 30, 2016, and appears to be holding despite sporadic clashes between government forces and extremists.
De Mistura further argued that the cessation of hostilities had not enabled humanitarian access in Syria as it should have.
The peace negotiations in Astana come ahead of the next round of UN-brokered political negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva on February 8.
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