The rebel factions in Syria will not participate in the new round of negotiations with government officials scheduled to take place in the capital of Kazakhstan. The third meeting in Astana, mediated by Turkey, Russia and Iran, should have started today with the objective of strengthening the national cease-fire, signed in late December. Another possible item on the agenda was the exchange of prisoners and hostages.
Yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made by the spokesman of the delegation that unites the various factions that make up the opposition. “Rebel groups have decided not to appear in Astana,” said Osama Abu Zeid, adding that behind the boycott are “broken promises” by the government regarding the ceasefire.
Othman Ahmad, commander of the rebel group, Sultan Murad, backed by Ankara, added that “there was full implementation” of the provisions relating to the cease-fire. “The regime and the militias are continuing to bomb, displace, and besiege ” he said.
Yesterday, the Syrian state TV said that the government delegation, headed by the representative of Damascus to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, had already arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan to participate in the meetings. Representatives of Russia and the United Nations were also present, the latter arrived in Astana as observers.
The next round of meetings mediated by the UN in Geneva will begin on March 23 and will focus on four main themes: the form of government, a new draft constitution, elections and the fight against terrorism. According to reports from the special envoy Staffan de Mistura they may even begin to discuss reconstruction.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, 320 thousand people have died and millions have been displaced, in the context of the most serious humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Meanwhile, rebel groups have agreed on the evacuation of the last enclaves in Homs, similar to what had happened previously in Aleppo The city governor Talal Barrazi claimed that the evacuation of al-Wair is part of an agreement with community leaders and will last six to eight weeks.
The rebels will be allowed to evacuate with their families; fighters will fall back towards the territories of the north of the country, controlled by opposition groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Wair, a district in the western suburbs of Homs – considered the “capital of the revolution” – in which 75 thousand people live, has been under government siege since 2013.
According to reports from the site Orient News, close to the opposition, the rebels should withdraw to Jarablus, a town on the border with Turkey taken from the Islamic State (IS) last August.