Astana Platform 09/10/2018
Randa Kassis, President of the Astana platform, met with the Russian delegation, represented by President Putin's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Vershinin, Gen. S. Afanaseiv, Mario Giro, former Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs & Representant of the Community of Sant'Egidio and Fabien Baussart, President of the CPFA.
Astana Platform 18/06/2018
Randa Kassis, President of the Astana platform, met with the Russian delegation, represented by President Putin's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Vershinin and Fabien Baussart, President of the CPFA.
The US, the UK and France resorted to strikes against Syria because, unlike Russia, they have suffered a defeat in the country both on the ground and at the negotiating table, and the liberation of Eastern Ghouta was a trigger for the strikes, the leader of the Astana platform of the Syrian opposition, Randa Kassis, told Sputnik.
On March 31, the command of the Syrian army said that Damascus had liberated Eastern Ghouta which was previously under the control of Jaysh al-Islam militants. On Friday night, the United States, the United Kingdom and France launched airstrikes against Syria over reports of a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta’s Duma. Western countries are accusing the Syrian government of being behind the alleged chemical attack while Damascus refuted the allegations.
“Because they suffered a defeat in Syria, whereas Russia is successful and gaining victories. This is a sort of cold war. They … suffered a defeat in a number of countries, most recently in Syria. They suffered a defeat in [the] Geneva [talks] with their opposition members, whom they have long supported,” she said, stressing that the liberation of Eastern Ghouta from terrorists had become a major event that “spurred Western countries to launch an operation.”
According to Kassis, the event was an “even greater” driving force behind the military operation than an alleged chemical attack carried out by Damascus.
Citing US anti-Russian sanctions and accusations against Moscow amid the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK town of Salisbury, Kassis noted that hostility toward Russia had started long ago but “is now gaining momentum.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the strikes had been carried out in violation of norms and principles of international law and under a false pretext before Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts arrived at the site of the alleged chemical incident.
Damascus is unwilling to go ahead with a constitutional reform in the country and such position is not constructive with regard to the latest diplomatic efforts onSyrian settlement, including the recent Russia-initiated Sochi Congress, leader of the Astana platform of the Syrian opposition Randa Kassis told Sputnik.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ayman Soussan, an assistant to the Syrian Foreign Minister, was reported as saying that Syria is not bound by and has no relation with any committee that is not Syrian-formed, referring to a constitutional commission. Its formation was announced at the Sochi Congress of National Dialogue in January and handed over to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura for finalization.
“For me it’s clear that they do not want to reform and to do anything, they do not want to rewrite the Constitution. And what about all efforts that Russia did in Sochi to start to resolve this problem?.. If they do not want to recognize the result of Sochi, why did they come to Sochi too?.. Is this mocking us?, ” Kassis said.
Kassis added she did not understand the government’s position.
“Why does the regime send [Syria’s UN envoy Bashar] Jaafari to Geneva if they do not want to discuss the possibility to rewrite the Constitution?” she said.
Jaafari is the head of the government delegation at Geneva Intra-Syrian talks, but he did not come to the Sochi Congress. The government side at the Congress was mainly represented by Ba’ath party members and lawmakers.
Kassis added that the position not only of the government, but also of the Riyadh-backed opposition was not constructive.
“On the one hand, we have the regime. On the other hand, we have the SNC [Syrian Negotiation Commission], who did not come to Sochi, who are not realistic. If they want to do something, to change, they need to be realistic, to be present everywhere. We just need to continue this path and efforts to rewrite the Constitution. We have to do it, because no one can start anything in Syria without a new constitution,” the opposition figure said.
The Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in Russia’s Sochi last month. It brought together about 1,400 delegates from the Syrian government and various opposition groups who agreed to form the Constitutional Commission in Geneva to amend the existing legislation of the Middle Eastern nation.
The Russia-hosted Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi may pave the way to the resolution of the Syrian crisis, Randa Kassis, the leader of the “Astana platform” of the Syrian opposition, has told Sputnik, highlighting the necessity of the creation of the constitutional commission during the ongoing summit to facilitate the peace process.
Those who have come to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian resort city of Sochi are motivated by patriotism and responsibility for the future of their country, Randa Kassis, the leader of the “Astana platform” of the Syrian opposition, told Sputnik Arabic, slamming those who snubbed the summit.
“Anyone who refused to participate in the Sochi congress is irresponsible,” the politician highlighted.
According to Kassis, all the members of her delegation understand that the Syrian crisis could not be resolved under the aegis of the United States. The Syrians have to kick-start the process themselves, here, in Sochi, she stressed.
“We must continue to work despite numerous difficulties faced by the Syrian opposition,” the politician said. “We must do everything to ensure the success of the Sochi talks.”
Kassis underscored that President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi is an important step, which, unfortunately, was not accepted by some political figures.
“If Vladimir Putin initiated something, it means not just the intention to do something, but the implementation of the objectives,” she pointed out. “Therefore, I pin my hopes on the event and this is why we arrived in Sochi.”
The politician emphasized that she had made efforts to gather as many representatives of the Syrian opposition as possible to form a working group. “We need to start finding the way out of the crisis immediately. I believe that it is impossible without the creation of a new constitution,” she noted.
Speaking to Sputnik, Kassis shed light on the Astana platform’s plans and program. The politician emphasized the necessity to create a “constitutional commission” within the framework of the negotiations.
“We need to start working on a new Syrian constitution,” she said. “We have prepared our own draft constitution, on which we have spent a year working on.”
According to the politician one of the most important issues concerning the future Syrian constitution is the maintenance of a secular state: “To clarify this issue I offered the following [definition]: the secularism is defined by the state’s neutrality to religious or non-religious beliefs of a Syrian citizen,” she said, “Beliefs could be not only religious, it could be views or a position and a person should have freedom [to express them].”
The present Syrian constitution offers four options to define a Syrian citizen’s religious beliefs: Sunni Muslim, Druze, Orthodox or Catholic Christian. Kassis explained that for ordinary Syrians the matters of marriages and inheritance are closely connected with their religious beliefs and existing state laws.
She noted that “in order to overcome the potential difficulties” she proposes “to introduce the fifth category — “a Syrian citizen” — without any religious references.
“It is necessary to give the Syrians the freedom of choice. A person may prefer to live in an exclusively secular legal field,” Kassis suggested.
On January 30 the Syrian national dialogue congress officially opened in Sochi. The summit has brought together various opposition and pro-governmental forces, as well as representatives of the country’s numerous ethnic and religious groups in order to facilitate the peace process with the focus on the Syrian constitution and elections.
The UN Security Council permanent members as well as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were also invited to participate in the event as observers. However, a number of states including the US and France, refused to attend, as did the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) opposition group.
On December 7, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov met with Randa Kassis, President of the Syrian opposition Movement for a Pluralistic Society.
The parties had an engaged discussion of the developments in Syria with an emphasis on the importance of intensified efforts for achieving political settlement of the crisis under the aegis of the UN based on UNSC Resolution 2254. In this context, the parties noted the timeliness and relevance of Russia’s initiative to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Congress with a focus on the importance of a constitutional reform in Syria.
On October 6, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov received Randa Kassis, President of the Syrian opposition Movement for a Pluralistic Society.
They discussed the situation in Syria and related developments, including in light of the success achieved in the effort to eradicate the hotbed of international terrorism in Syria with support from the Russian Aerospace Forces, and the progress made in the Astana process in supporting the ceasefire and establishing functional de-escalation zones. The Russian diplomats stressed the need to step up efforts to achieve a speedy political settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council through the broadest possible intra-Syrian dialogue and the Geneva talks under UN auspices.
A meeting, at the level of experts, on drafting Syria’s new constitution, will take place in Geneva on July 10-13, while the group of support for the Astana-brokered de-escalation zones in Syria will also be established, the leader of the Astana political platform of the Syrian opposition, Randa Kassis, told Sputnik.
GENEVA (Sputnik) — The leader of the Astana opposition platform noted that the groups, consisting of military experts from the different sides of the Syrian conflict, would be created simultaneously for the support of the Astana-brokered de-escalation zones, which were created as a result of the fourth round of talks on the Syrian settlement, held in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
“We will keep on working on the constitution groups with some experts, which means with some constitutionalists, the European constitutionalists, so that they can help us to make a real, new constitution,” Kassis said, while answering the question on whether the meeting will take place on July 10-13.
Kassis stressed that the meeting on Syria’s new constitution in Astana was initiated as the talks, headed by UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, seemed to lack any progress and consensus on the development of the constitution.
At the sixth round of UN-backed talks in Geneva, de Mistura presented all parties with a plan to create a consultative mechanism on Syrian constitutional matters, drawing instant criticism from the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) delegation, which attacked nearly every point of the initiative and demanded clarifications.
GENEVA (Sputnik) — Astana platform of the Syrian opposition is going to create a group with local political forces in northern Syria to reinforce and support the memorandum on safe zones agreed on in Kazakhstan, platform’s leaderRanda Kassis told Sputnik Monday after her meeting with Russia’s envoy to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) Alexei Borodavkin.
“In the end of June, I am going to create a group to reinforce Astana memorandum on de-escalation zones. I will create this group with some parties that operate in the Northern Syria, Western Aleppo and Idlib. They work there and they provide services there, working with local communities. That’s really good, we can reinforce the memorandum together,” Kassis said.
The platform’s leader stated she would create this group instead of an anti-terrorism group, which she planned to create earlier.
“It will focus solely on Astana process and the memorandum. Borodavkin supports my idea and my work,” Kassis noted.
At the latest Astana meeting on Syria on May 3-4, three ceasefire guarantor states — Russia, Turkey and Iran — finalized and signed a memorandum on establishment of four safe zones in Syria. The four zones span the northwestern Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, the north of the central Homs province, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, as well as southern Daraa and Quneitra regions. The memorandum came into force on May 6.
Syrian settlement talks take place on two parallel platforms: the UN-mediated Geneva talks, and the Astana talks, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The three aforementioned states are the guarantors of a nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime that came into force on December 30, 2016. The previous round of the Geneva talks took place on March 23 — March 31 and the fourth round of Astana talks was held on May 3 — May 4.
The leader of the Astana political platform of Syrian opposition, Randa Kassis, seeks to engage P5 states – Russia, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and China – in discussions on constitutional change for Syria under the platform’s umbrella, she told Sputnik on Tuesday.
GENEVA (Sputnik) — In March, a group of Syrian legal experts coordinated by the Astana opposition platform held a seminar in Geneva on the constitutional change and agreed on 12 points that the future Syrian constitution must include.
A majority of Syrians accept these 12 recommendations. It has been accepted by a lot of Syrians. … So we have to continue, with other constitutionalists – European, Arabs … We need to discuss it. We can invite some from the UN, some from Russia. I think we can invite P5. That’s what we really have to do. So I am going to continue with P5,” Kassis said.
Randa Kassis gestures during a press conference following a new round of negotiations of peace talks on Syria at the United Nations Office in Geneva on March 23, 2016
“We have contacts with the American administration. We are going to meet with them, maybe in the end of next month, between May and June. And with France – we are going to wait until May 7 and then start to work with the new government. They are also a P5 state, it’s urgent to work with them,” Kassis added.
The March seminar reviewed Russia’s draft for Syria’s new constitution that was proposed for consideration to the Syrian delegations at Astana talks in January. Recommendations that it worked out stipulate that Syria needs to be a parliamentary republic with decentralized powers and a secular state, that the law of Islam shall not be the only source of legislation in the country, and that the Kurdish and Syriac languages need to be recognized as official alongside Arabic in the region of El Gezira.
Progress on Syria Impossible With De Mistura as UN Special Envoy
Randa Kassis told Sputnik that she believes there can be no progress on the Syrian settlement so long as Staffan de Mistura holds the mandate as UN Special Envoy for Syria.
The future of de Mistura’s mandate was a subject to rumors during the latest round of Syria talks in Geneva. His contract officially ended on March 31, the last day of negotiations. There was no official statement from the UN secretary-general or de Mistura himself on whether he would continue his role as the UN special envoy, but multiple sources told Sputnik that de Mistura’s mandate had been prolonged for six more months.
“We are not going to have any progress with the mandate of de Mistura. So we have two choices — to work not with the UN, but alone with Syrians and other countries, the countries of P5. When the UN is ready to replace de Mistura, we will have this work to present it to the UN. The second choice is just to cancel the role of the UN if they insist to keep de Mistura on this work,” Kassis said.
Earlier in April, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Sputnik that Moscow supports the continuation of de Mistura’s work and believes he can achieve positive results on Syrian settlement with the support of the international community.