Dec 05 2018

U.S. Syria envoy proposes end to Astana process, starts visit to Turkey

U.S. special representative for Syria James Jeffrey on Wednesday began an official visit to Turkey and Jordan, Anadolu Agency reported

Joel Rayburn, deputy assistant secretary of state for Levant affairs and special envoy for Syria, will join Jeffrey during his visit, the agency said.

"In Turkey, the Ambassador will meet with Turkish leaders and other senior officials to discuss the promotion of stability and security in Syria," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Jeffrey proposed on Monday to pull the plug of the Astana process, initiated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran to establish peace in Syria complementing the UN-led negotiations in Geneva.

The 11th round of the Astana talks was organised last week in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The United Nations’ Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura deemed the meeting a “missed opportunity” for failing in making progress in the establishment of a constitutional committee that UN sees as a crucial step for a peaceful resolution in Syria. 

During a press briefing on Monday, Jeffrey said the primary goal of the Astana talks held last week had been the finalisation of the list of committee members.

“But they did not take any significant action on the constitutional committee. Rather, they stated once again that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, but all they did was reaffirm their determination to set up joint efforts to launch the constitutional committee in Geneva. But they didn’t even say “by the end of the year”; what they said was “the soonest possible time,” which tends to be waffling,” the ambassador said. 

“But our suggestion, and I think I would reflect the views of many of the other major UN countries that are concerned and interested in Syria, is that we do not continue with this rather strange Sochi/Astana initiative, for them to take over the job of putting together a constitutional committee and presenting it on a platter to de Mistura,”said Jeffrey. “They tried and they failed, or at least up to this point they failed.”

“Let’s pull the plug on Astana,” said the ambassador unless a breakthrough was achieved by mid-December on the establishment of the committee.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu slammed Jeffrey’s statements on Wednesday.

“It was an unfortunate statement. I do not this those were his won thoughts,” Çavuşoğlu said during a press briefing Brussels.