#Syria: Don’t dismiss the #AstanaProcess

| March 30, 2018

Syria’s tragedy is now entering its eighth year. This bitter conflict, as the recent fighting in Eastern Ghouta has again underlined, has caused huge loss of life, suffering and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting. According to UN figures, more than 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Over five million people – a quarter of the Syrian population – are now living outside their own country, many in refugee camps – writes  Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov.

Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Faced with so much suffering, it is the responsibility of all countries to play whatever role they can to help reduce the fighting and help all sides make progress towards a peaceful settlement. It is a responsibility which Kazakhstan has accepted by hosting the Astana Process.

Since December 2016, our capital has provided the venue where the Syrian Government and some armed opposition groups – together with high-level representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran who have agreed to guarantee agreements reached – have met. High level representatives of the United Nations, the United States of America and Jordan are also engaged in the Astana Process as observers. The next talks under the Astana Process, this time between the Foreign Ministers of the three guarantor countries, is due to take place on March 16.

Kazakhstan’s provision of the neutral venue for these talks continues a long record of promoting peace and dialogue led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In the Syria crisis, we also find ourselves with, perhaps uniquely, good relations with all the outside countries now involved in this complex conflict.

The talks taking place in Astana are, of course, only part of a much wider diplomatic effort to find a comprehensive settlement for Syria; it is complimentary to the principal talks at Geneva under the aegis of the UN. But within its aims to develop a framework for a ceasefire and the creation of de-escalation zones, there has been significant progress.

We have, for the first time, seen the government of Syria and the non-terrorist armed opposition groups sit down at the same table. The conditions to bring about an end to hostilities could not have been achieved without this happening. We have also seen a mechanism for monitoring the compliance of the cessation of hostilities and the confidence-building measures needed to help reach this stage agreed.

Too many lives continue to be lost. But the result of this process was a reduction in the level of violence and the number of civilian casualties last year. This was coupled with a general improvement in the humanitarian situation.

The overall reduction in violence has also allowed countries to work together more effectively to weaken ISIS in Syria. The extremist group has, for example, lost control of Raqqa, its self-declared capital.

These are the solid achievements of the first eight rounds of the Astana process. But the increased fighting and loss of life in Eastern Ghouta, within one of the four de-escalation zones, highlights the fragility of the situation and shows how much more needs to be done.

Kazakhstan calls on all parties to comply immediately with the emergency cease-fire agreed by the UN Security Council – of which Kazakhstan is a member – to stop the unnecessary bloodshed. The siege of Eastern Ghouta must be lifted by the Syrian authorities and all parties must allow unhindered access to ensure humanitarian assistance to reach the affected areas so that those people in need of medical treatment can be safely evacuated.

In the longer term, it is also important that the guarantor states use their authority and influence to encourage the government and armed opposition of Syria to take further real steps to implement and strengthen confidence-building measures. These should include the exchange of prisoners and the repatriation of the bodies of the deceased.

We also need to see increased co-operation in the military campaign against international terrorist groups in Syria. They remain a threat to the safety of all our citizens and the stability of all our countries.

Kazakhstan remains firmly committed to the peaceful resolution and lasting settlement of the Syrian conflict. We continue to believe that the Astana Process can play an important role in this ambition.

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Category: A Frontpage, Kazakhstan, Syria

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