Orient Net. Feb. 20, 2017 - The United Nations envoy to Syria said on Sunday talks to be held from Feb. 23 in Geneva would aim to see if there was a window for political negotiations to advance.
"Astana is the only place for the cessation of hostilities and Geneva is to see if there is any space for political discussion," Staffan de Mistura told delegates at the Munich Security Conference, referring to separate ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
He said the Geneva talks would be based on UN Security Council resolution 2254.
"I can’t tell you (if it will succeed), but we have to push for momentum. Even a ceasefire cannot hold too long if there is no political (solution)."
De Mistura also questioned US President Donald Trump’s engagement in solving the Syrian conflict, "Where is the US in all this? I can’t tell you because I don’t know," he said.
He added that the new administration was still trying to work out its priorities on the issue.
The US’ top three priorities include fighting the ISIS, "how to limit the influence of some major regional players and how to not to damage one of their major allies in the region", said de Mistura.
"How you square this circle, that I understand is what they are discussing in Washington," he said.
Turkish FM says Geneva only place to negotiate political solution in Syria
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Geneva was the only viable place to hold UN-led peace talks on Syria in order to negotiate a political solution and transition plan.
"Astana has never been an alternative to Geneva," Cavusoglu told delegates at a security conference in Munich, referring to talks held between Turkey, Russia, Iran as well as opposition and Assad representatives in the Kazakh capital.
"It’s a good confidence building measure and helpful to maintain a ceasefire. It’s a good step forward."
"But now we need to resume Geneva talks, which is the main basis for the political solution and transition," he said.
Turkey, Russia and Iran issued a closing statement in mutual agreement indicating that all sides have agreed "there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and it can only be solved through the diplomatic implementation of UN Security Council Resolution Number 2254 in its entirety."
Talks in Geneva are set to resume on Feb. 23. The negotiations will be the first time that Assad regime and opposition delegations have returned to Geneva since talks were suspended in April 2016.
Syrian opposition leaders left the Geneva talks in April 2016 after airstrikes on civilians were carried out by Russia and the Assad regime.
Tense atmosphere ahead of Geneva 4
"A few days prior to the start of the round of talks of Geneva 4, the Assad regime and its allied militias began a military escalation violating all of the agreements and commitments made to the ceasefire declared on December 30, 2016, Wael Alwan, the opposition delegation media adviser to Geneva said in an exclusive statement to Orient Net.
"The Assad-besieged Waer neighborhood in Homs suffered from several air raids, in addition to heavy artillery shelling, ground missiles and sniping operations which caused dozens of civilians to fall victim to this military escalation, including children, Alwan said.
"The military buildup also continued on the Qaboun neighborhood in Damascus, launching a number of airstrikes and artillery fire and leaving a large number of civilians dead or wounded. The artillery shells and rockets also targeted a funeral which lead to an appalling massacre in the Afja neighborhood of Damascus, killing more than 13 mourning civilians.
"The heavy shelling also continued on the fronts of eastern Ghouta in Damascus, particularly on the city of Harasta, as well as the towns of Daraa, Hama, Idlib and Aleppo countryside.
"This military escalation and these flagrant violations come at a time between the meetings of Astana and Geneva 4 scheduled on February 23. This proves that Russia seeks to keep its commitments loyal to Assad and his allies regarding a military solution and the pre-empting of all the political means that the revolutionary forces and the opposition wish to achieve to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and end the bloodshed all across Syria.
"With the absence of a real guarantor to achieve an actual ceasefire and a solid international stance – that is lost between the new US administration and Geneva 4, which is doomed to failure – the great responsibility falls on the shoulders of the international community to achieve a favorable climate for the start of negotiations and the political transition process, which cannot begin to bear fruit and the desired stability without real commitment and seriousness in achieving the ceasefire," Alwan concluded.