The Syrian government and opposition militants have announced the names of their delegation heads for the upcoming peace talks in Kazakhstan.
On Tuesday, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari was named as the head of the government’s delegation for the intra-Syrian talks in Astana, scheduled for January 23. The talks would focus strictly on military developments and reinforcement of the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
The Syrian government’s delegation “will be led by Syrian diplomat and permanent representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari,” said a report in Syria’s Al-Watan daily, adding that the government’s team will also include “figures representing the military and the Syrian judiciary, so that the delegation will represent the whole Syrian state.”
The foreign-sponsored militant groups will be represented by Mohammad Alloush, the head of the political office of the so-called Jaish al-Islam militant group. Their delegation will also include some 20 other people.
The negotiations, which exclude the Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist groups, will be held in the wake of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council on December 31.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that representatives from the future US administration and the United Nations should be invited to the talks.
“We think it would be the right thing to invite the representatives of the UN and the new US administration to the meeting, taking into account that the meeting will take place on January 23, as planned,” Lavrov said.
“We’re counting on the new [US] administration accepting this invitation and being represented by experts on any level they consider possible. It will be the first official contact during which we could begin discussing stepping up the efficiency of fighting terrorism in Syria,” he added.
Lavrov also noted that he had received information that some European countries are mulling sabotaging the negotiations because they felt left out. He added that he hoped they would refrain from such actions.
The peace negotiations in Astana come ahead of the next round of UN-brokered political negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva on February 8.
Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy over the past almost six years. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syrian crisis until then. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.