The Astana Rounds: Tracing the Path to Resolution in Syria (2)
PART 2: 2019-2022
In the first part, we delved into the origins and motivations behind the negotiations in Astana, which aimed to pave the way for peace in war-torn Syria. As a continuation, this second part focuses on the crucial milestones and outcomes achieved throughout the negotiations.
The Astana process, propelled by the collaborative efforts of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, sought to consolidate the ceasefire regime established through earlier agreements. By examining the progress made, the challenges faced, and the lessons learned during these negotiations, we gain insights into the potential for sustainable peace and stability in Syria.
The thirteenth round of high-level negotiations in the Astana format took place in Nur-Sultan on August 1-2, 2019. The delegations of the guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), as well as representatives from both sides of the conflict in Syria, including the government delegation led by Bashar al-Jaafari and the armed opposition led by Ahmad al-Touma, participated in the negotiations. Geir Pedersen, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Syria, was unable to attend due to health reasons, and the UN delegation was headed by his deputy. Observers from Iraq and Lebanon were present, along with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
During the negotiations, the government of Syria and the armed opposition reached an agreement on complying with the Russian-Turkish Sochi agreement of September 2018 regarding the ceasefire in the Idlib zone and de-escalation.
The fourteenth round of negotiations in the Astana format took place on December 10-11, 2019, in Nur-Sultan. The delegations of the guarantor countries (Iran, Russia, and Turkey), the government of Syria, and the Syrian armed opposition participated in the meeting. The UN delegation, led by the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, attended as observers.
During the meeting, the participants affirmed the importance of preserving the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic and the implementation of the Adana Agreement. They discussed the situation in northeastern Syria and agreed that long-term security and stability in the region could only be achieved by preserving Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The participants welcomed the signing of a memorandum on the stabilization of northeastern Syria in October 2019 and emphasized the significance of the Adana Agreement from 1998, which allows Turkish troops to temporarily enter Syrian territory to combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The guarantor countries reaffirmed their commitment to continuing efforts to release detained individuals and hostages. They called upon the international community, including the UN and its humanitarian agencies, to increase assistance to Syria.
The next round of negotiations was initially scheduled for March 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fifteenth round of negotiations on Syria took place on February 16-17, 2021, in Sochi. The meeting involved multilateral and bilateral consultations between the Syrian government and opposition, with the participation of the guarantor countries (Russia, Iran, and Turkey) and the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Syria.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the guarantor countries reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity. They rejected attempts to create new realities on the ground, including illegal self-governance initiatives under the pretext of fighting terrorism. The countries expressed their determination to counter separatist plans in the Trans-Euphrates region that aimed to undermine Syria's unity and threaten the national security of neighboring countries. They also expressed concern about the escalation of hostilities targeting civilians.
Additionally, Russia, Turkey, and Iran condemned the illegal seizure and transfer of oil proceeds in northeastern Syria, affirming that the oil fields should belong to the government of the Syrian Arab Republic. They called upon the UN and the World Health Organization to prioritize the vaccination of the Syrian population against COVID-19 through the COVAX initiative.
The sixteenth round of negotiations on Syria took place on July 7-8, 2021, in Nur-Sultan. The participants included delegations from the guarantor countries (Iran, Russia, and Turkey), the government of Syria, the Syrian armed opposition, and observers from the UN, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
The parties discussed countering extremism, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and condemning foreign interference in Syria's politics and economy. In the final statement, the countries discussed the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone and emphasized the importance of maintaining peace on the ground by fully implementing existing agreements. They rejected attempts to create new realities through illegal self-governance initiatives under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The countries also condemned Israel's ongoing military attacks in Syria, which violated international law, international humanitarian law, and the sovereignty of Syria and neighboring countries. They called for the cessation of such attacks, as they posed a threat to stability and security in the region.
The seventeenth round of negotiations on Syria took place on December 21-22, 2021, in Nur-Sultan. The meetings involved two-way and three-way consultations among the participants.
The guarantor countries (Iran, Russia, and Turkey) adopted a joint statement reaffirming their unwavering commitment to Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity. They emphasized the importance of the goals and principles of the UN Charter, highlighting the need for their universal observance and consideration.
The countries expressed their determination to continue cooperation in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They opposed separatist plans that aimed to undermine Syria's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the national security of neighboring countries. The guarantor countries condemned the increase in terrorist activity in various parts of Syria, leading to civilian casualties and attacks on civil infrastructure.
The eighteenth round of negotiations on Syria took place on June 15-16, 2022, in Nur-Sultan. The guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, and the UN participated in the negotiations.
The discussions focused on the situation on the ground in Syria, including humanitarian and socio-economic conditions, the prospects for resuming the work of the Syrian constitutional committee in Geneva, measures to strengthen trust, the release of hostages and search for missing persons, and creating conditions for the return of Syrian refugees.
Following the meeting, the representatives of Iran, Russia, and Turkey issued a joint statement expressing their belief that the Syrian conflict does not have a military solution. They reiterated their commitment to promoting a viable and long-term political process, led and implemented by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
The nineteenth round of negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in Syria took place in Astana on November 22-23, 2022. The delegations of Russia, Turkey, Iran, the government of Syria, and the Syrian opposition participated in the negotiations. Observers from the UN, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq were also present.
The guarantor countries of the Astana process condemned the increasing activity of terrorist groups in Syria and expressed their determination to continue cooperation in fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They also opposed separatist plans aimed at undermining Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including cross-border attacks and infiltration.
The countries condemned the growing presence and activities of terrorist groups and related structures operating under different banners in various parts of Syria. They denounced attacks on civilian infrastructure and internally displaced persons' camps, which resulted in civilian casualties.
The representatives of Iran, Russia, and Turkey reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity. They expressed their determination to continue cooperation in fighting terrorism and opposing separatist plans that threatened Syria's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the national security of neighboring countries.
The participants condemned all forms of terrorist activity in different parts of Syria and emphasized the need for further cooperation to eliminate ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and all other individuals, groups, enterprises, and organizations connected with Al-Qaeda or ISIS.
Detailed discussions were held on the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace on the ground by fully implementing existing agreements concerning Idlib.
The representatives of the three countries also condemned Israel's ongoing military attacks in Syria. They highlighted that Israel's use of civilian aircraft as cover for aggression on Syrian territory violated international rules and endangered civilian lives.
Additionally, the participants welcomed the successful exchange of forcibly detained persons between the sides of the Syrian armed conflict, which occurred on June 13, 2022.