Assad’s envoy in Astana talks: Turkey must pull its troops out of Syria

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Syria's UN ambassador and head of the government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari gestures as he speaks during a press conference following the second session of Syria peace talks at the Rixos President Hotel in Astana, on February 16, 2017. Representatives from the Syrian government and rebel groups held fresh talks on February 16, 2017 with key powerbrokers Russia, Turkey and Iran aimed at shoring up a fragile ceasefire. The meeting is the second time key players Moscow, Ankara and Tehran have brought the warring sides together, and comes ahead of a new round of UN-led talks on Syria in Geneva on February 23. / AFP PHOTO / STANISLAV FILIPPOV

A representative of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad government at the Astana peace talks said Turkey and Syrian rebels were attempting to disrupt the negotiations by refusing to sign a communique.

Speaking during the peace talks in the Kazakh capital on Thursday, Bashar Ja’afari, the head of Syria’s government delegation, said Ankara must pull its troops out of Syria and close its border to jihadist fighters if it is to be a real guarantor of a Turkish-Russian cease-fire agreed at the end of last year.

According to Reuters, Ja’afari accused Turkey of refusing to agree to a communique and said, “No final communique was issued because of Turkish opposition to a draft statement.”

He also criticized the Turkish and rebel delegations for arriving in Astana on the last day of the talks.

“The delegation came with a low representation that does not rise to what Turkey claims as a guarantor … and so the Turkish role prompts many question marks over it,” he said.

The Astana talks began on Jan. 23 after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, discussed with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in December the possibility of holding a meeting in Astana between the warring parties in the Syrian conflict, Putin said the leaders of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Russia were prepared to start peace talks.

The cease-fire has been repeatedly violated, with each side blaming the other, while fighting with jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups, which are not included in the truce, has raged on.

Kurdish rebel groups the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which control most areas of northern Syria, are being excluded from the talks in line with the wishes of Turkey.

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