Cease-fire, solution in Syria close: Turkish FM

Cease-fire, solution in Syria close: Turkish FM

Cease-fire, solution in Syria close: Turkish FM

AFP photo

Turkey and Russia are close to brokering a new agreement that would expand a cease-fire between the government and opposition groups to all of Syria, Turkey’s top diplomat has said, underlining that “terror organizations” like Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) will not be allowed to participate in upcoming talks in Astana. 

“We are still working on it. It could be put into place at any moment. It’s about expanding the cease-fire. We are also working for a negotiated political solution,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Dec. 28 on the sidelines of a presidential reception. 

Çavuşoğlu’s words confirmed an Anadolu Agency report early on Dec. 28 announcing a fresh deal between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey and Russia secured the safe evacuation of civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo two weeks ago and have been working to expand the cease-fire. 

The proposed agreement was introduced to the Syrian government and opposition groups for their approval and suggested the implementation of a cease-fire as of midnight on Dec. 28. The process is regarded as an important milestone for the Russia-proposed Astana talks to be held between the government and opposition under the auspices of Russia, Turkey and Iran. 

There are still talks ongoing on who will participate in the Astana talks. The minister stated that terror organizations would be excluded from the cease-fire. He also added that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) would not attend the Astana talks.

Çavuşoğlu said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra groups were mentioned in U.N. Security Council Decision 2254. “Now, there is no consensus on the YPG yet. Some countries are trying to benefit from the PYD against Daesh [ISIL],” Çavuşoğlu said, elaborating on the reasons why the Syrian Kurdish group had not yet been added to the list of exceptions to the cease-fire deal if it was a terrorist group.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the armed wing of the PYD.

But a transition toward peace in Syria that involves President Bashar al-Assad is “impossible,” as the country’s opposition will not accept him, the minister said.

It was also learned that negotiations between Russia and representatives of armed opposition groups have been carried out in Turkey since Dec. 23. Turkey played the role as a facilitator.  

Meanwhile, the cease-fire reportedly will begin at 12 a.m. local time at the start of Dec. 29. Iran is also included in the deal with Turkey and Russia and “sanctions will be imposed if the cease-fire is broken,” CNN Türk reported, quoting anonymous Foreign Ministry sources. Syrian government and opposition groups will kick off negotiations in Astana if the cease-fire is successful, according to the sources.

When asked about Iran’s role, Çavuşoğlu said, “Iran should influence Shiite groups, primarily Hezbollah.”

According to a Turkish diplomat, the text holds a notion of constructive ambiguity about the names of the terrorist groups, referring to Ahrar al-Sham as an example. The cease-fire also includes a suspension of air strikes, according to the diplomat. The parties will implement a series of confidence-building measures until the Astana meeting, which is expected for Oct. 16, said the diplomat.

 The Kremlin said it could not comment on the cease-fire report. “I cannot answer that question right now,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call. 

“I don’t have sufficient information,” he said, adding that Moscow was constantly in touch with the Turkish side to discuss details about Astana talks for potential Syrian peace talks.

Earlier, state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Ankara and Moscow agreed on a cease-fire deal in Syria in a move to extend the current truce in East Aleppo to all over the country.

Turkey regards PYD and the YPG as terror organizations due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which it has been fighting against since mid-1980s.