Conflicts & War

Moscow says Switzerland too “anti-Russian” as venue for Syrian talks

Nur-Sultan, June 16 (EFE).- The guarantor nations of the Syrian ceasefire on Thursday weighed the possibility of scrapping Geneva as the venue for ongoing Syrian Constitutional Committee talks after Moscow said Switzerland had lost its neutral status due to its “anti-Russian” position.

“A move to a more neutral place is being considered,” Russian special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev told a news conference following the 18th round of the Astana Process peace talks held Wednesday and Thursday in Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan.

The latest round included delegates from the guarantor countries – Russia, Iran and Turkey – representatives of the Syrian regime and the opposition, and Robert Dunn, a member of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen’s team.

Venues being considered to continue Syrian Constitutional Committee negotiations included Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Bahrain, Algiers and Nur-Sultan, Lavrentiev said.

The Committee, made up of representatives from the Syrian regime, the opposition and civil society, has been working on the draft of a new constitution in Geneva, but the dialogue is going at a “very slow pace” after three years of work, Pedersen said earlier this month.

Lavrentiev explained that countries bordering Syria such as Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan – observer nations of the Astana Process – are not being considered as an alternative venue for now.

“We are interested in carrying out the work of the Constitutional Committee in a normal environment,” Lavrentiev said.

He stressed that it was the Russian delegation that raised the issue of changing the venue of the Constitutional Committee meetings because “our work has become painful due to the unfriendly attitude of Switzerland towards Russia.”

The Kremlin envoy noted that Russia had informed Iran and Turkey as well as the United Nations of its position.

Russia said that it was not so much because of the logistical and technical difficulties that the sanctions imply, but because Switzerland “has lost its neutral status” with the restrictions and its “anti-Russian” discourse.

“It is premature to talk about an agreement between the guarantor countries and also between the Syrian government and the opposition” on a change of venue, Lavrentiev said.

“Much will depend on the position of the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition,” he added.

Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior representative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said that the issue of moving the venue is still being discussed, as the consent of all parties involved in the negotiation process is needed.

“The Constitutional Committee will continue its work in Geneva” at the ninth round scheduled for July 25-29, he said.

The head of the Syrian opposition delegation, Ahmed Tomeh, advocated that the transfer be done under the auspices of the United Nations and to a site where there are UN offices.

“We cannot accept that the Constitutional Committee takes place where there is no UN representation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussaner reiterated that Turkey’s plans to launch a military operation in northern Syria against Kurdish formations undermine all agreements under international law in de-escalation zones.

“Security on the border of the two countries is a mutual responsibility and is observed through mutual respect for the territorial integrity of the state,” he stressed. EFE



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