US envoy Jeffrey suggests ending Astana talks for Syria

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The special envoy to Syria has suggested ending the Astana talks on the future of the country, promoting the U.N.-led Geneva talks.

“The U.S. view is let’s pull the plug on Astana,” envoy James Jeffrey said at a briefing in Washington on Dec. 3, claiming that the Astana parties — Russia, Turkey, and Iran — have failed to advance efforts for a Syria constitutional committee at a meeting last week.

Jeffrey said the United States would propose ending the competitor to the Geneva talks when U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura departs his seat at the end of the year.

De Mistura is due to give perhaps his final report to the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 14. Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen has been named to succeed him.

If de Mistura is unable to report that he can convene a constitutional committee in Geneva by the end of the year, Jeffrey said it would be the U.S. view that Pedersen take a different approach.

“Our suggestion would be we do not continue with the rather strange Sochi/Astanainitiative.”

Referring to the Astana talks, Jeffrey said “Is it a stalemate? Yes. But in terms of a breakthrough… I still think the chances are not great, I would say they’re better now than they were three months ago or six months ago.”

It is very clear that the Damascus regime, the Russians and Iranians want to see the ‘three Rs,’” Jeffrey said.

“Refugees pushed back to Syria, reconstruction aid and the Bashar al-Assad regime to be recognized as legitimate. None of those things are happening, and they are not going to happen unless the political process makes progress.”

Jeffrey credited the parties to the Oct. 27 Istanbul summit — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin — with having negotiated and sustained a de-escalation agreement for Idlib.

Jeffrey travels to TurkeyJordan

Jeffrey will travel to Turkey and Jordan between Dec. 4-14, the State Department said on Dec. 4.

He will be joined by Joel Rayburn, deputy assistant secretary of state for Levant affairs and special envoy for Syria.

“In Turkey, the Ambassador will meet with Turkish leaders and other senior officials to discuss the promotion of stability and security in Syria,” said the department in a statement.

He will also conduct a “High-Level Working Group on Syria” with Turkish officials to address security concerns of the U.S. and Turkey and
continue progress on issues of mutual interest regarding the Syria crisis, according to the statement.

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