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The Astana/Sochi Plan for Peace in Syria

Dec. 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—Russia’s grand plan—with Turkey and Iran—for the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, Russia, provides an inspiring image of what is possible for mankind now, especially if Presidents Putin, Xi Jinping and Trump work in tandem. Sputnik News Service transcribed and posted a special interview yesterday with Alexander Lavrentyev, the Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria. The Syrian National Dialogue Congress will be a two-day gathering, Jan. 29-30, of roughly 1,500 envoys from every section and faction of Syrian society which wants to move from armed conflict to negotiations.

"We have proposed to invite a certain number of representatives of, for example, Sunnites, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, and the Arab tribes whose sheikhs command authority and whose opinion can make a difference, who will express their opinion on in which direction the country should move."

Only the terrorists and those who want to continue fighting will be excluded.

Further on this inclusivity: Among all the others, the Syrian Kurds will also be fully represented. Turkey has vetoed participation by the PYD which governs most of the northern Kurdish enclaves in Syria, but Lavrentyev said,

"I think the leadership of the PYD understands that there is no point in insisting that the party take part. The most important thing for them should be to see their interests taken into account through the presence of other representatives of the Kurdish diaspora. So I think it is less of a problem than some tend to believe."

The next Geneva meeting on Syria will be convened on about Jan. 21. But the Russians, the Turks and Iran are asking UN representative de Mistura to get United Nations endorsement for the Sochi meeting and to attend it himself as well. "We are counting on it and we have told him so." The U.S. has not weighed in, but Lavrentyev thinks the U.S. would be invited to observe if it wishes.

Only two days for such a big conference? Lavrentyev said that it would have a tight, structured agenda, to lead towards the next step, which is to begin consultations towards a new Constitution for Syria—in a legal fashion under the current Constitution. A long, unstructured congress might degenerate into squabbling. He said that delegates who want to discuss getting rid of President Assad should stay home—it is clear that they only want to continue the armed struggle. And only Syrians will have speaking rights—they must determine among themselves how their country is going to work. All of this as laid out in UNSC Resolution 2254.

"For us the most important thing is for the intra-Syrian dialogue to be inclusive, that is, that all the social strata be represented, and then let them come to an agreement among themselves."

The international community is not doing enough to help,

"but the most important thing is that these should be efforts in the right direction. The boat of the Syrian settlement should be just one, and everyone should be in it and row in the same direction. If we row in different directions, then we will be spinning in one place..."

The Astana guarantors power of Russia, Iran and Turkey have also established a committee for exchange of prisoners in Syria, intending to mediate between the non-terrorist parties there to exchange prisoners and thus increase mutual trust and confidence.

The whole thing is really quite a concept.

In reflections from the U.S.—President Trump tweeted on Dec. 27,

"On 1/20 - the day Trump was inaugurated—an estimated 35,000 ISIS fighters held approx 17,500 square miles of territory in both Iraq and Syria. As of 12/21, the U.S. military estimates the remaining 1,000 or so fighters occupy roughly 1,900 square miles."

And in a Pentagon briefing the same day, British Maj. Gen Felix Gedney, representing the U.S.-led "Coalition," said that U.S. forces would no longer operate in areas of Syria controlled by its government. "We will continue to deconflict with the Russians, but we have got no intention to operate in areas that are currently held by the regime," Gedney said, according to Reuters.