Russia-backed Syria talks end without progress
Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed the Syria crisis by phone, the Kremlin said yesterday, after peace talks in Kazakhstan closed without any substantive negotiations.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Nazarbayev exchanged views over the third round of talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana last week, but gave no further details.
The Astana talks ended last Wednesday without progress after rebels boycotted the meeting. The talks are run by Russia, Turkey and Iran, backers of the warring sides, and have little UN involvement. The three countries agreed to hold the next meeting in Astana on May 3.
In a separate statement yesterday, Russia's foreign ministry said foreign minister Sergey Lavrov also discussed Syria on the phone with his French counterpart.
Lavrov said that the refusal by rebels to join the Kazakh talks show "some countries" are trying to harm the peace process. Lavrov did not name the countries.
The rebels, who attended previous rounds in the Kazakh capital, refused to join the latest talks, accusing Russia of failing to uphold December's shaky ceasefire.
The foreign ministry statement added that both Russia and France have agreed to work together preparing another round of parallel Syria peace talks, led by the UN and set for March 23 in Geneva.
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura had earlier proposed to the negotiators in Geneva that the issue of fighting terrorism and the ceasefire should be handled in parallel talks in Astana.
He wanted the focus in Geneva to be a new constitution, UN-supervised elections and accountable governance, based on Security Council Resolution 2254.
Many parties involved, including Russia, have said that Astana talks do not substitute negotiations in Geneva.
Rebels and their families began leaving their last bastion in the Syrian city of Homs yesterday, under a Russian-backed deal with the government expected to be among the largest evacuations of its kind.