Statement by The Syrian Women Political Movement on the ninth Astana Conference

On May 15, 2018, Astana Conference 9 was held with the presence of the three guarantor states and representatives of both the opposition and the regime. The conference was concluded with a final statement reiterating the unity of the Syrian territories and adoption of the so-called the de-escalation zones.

An initial reading of the statement shows the stark contradiction between the content of the statement and the behavior of the three guarantors on the ground. Whilst it reiterates the de-escalation zones which have been agreed upon since the first round of Astana, the Syrian regime has been capturing these areas and restoring its control over them with huge military support and engagement by Russia and Iran. Recently, the regime managed to control eastern Ghouta, the northern countryside of Homs and the southern countryside of Hama, through fierce battles waged by the regime, although these areas have been part of the de-escalation zones. Although the statement talks about the right of displaced people to return to their original areas, displacement continues in all Syrian contested areas, whether under Russian sponsored agreements, including, most recently, the northern countryside of Homs, the southern countryside of Hama and the south of Damascus, or Afrin.

As the case has been before in Astana, there has been an attempt to deal with the most painful issue in Syria singlehandedly. The statement adopted the issue of detained and kidnapped men and women and linked it to special committees. This has been negatively reflected on this issue, because it has been excluded from all recent agreements, and as usual, no agreement included any releases of detainees. No noteworthy progress has been made in this issue, throughout the consecutive meetings of Astana.

The most dangerous thing in the statement of Astana, however, is the decision to hold the future meetings in the Russian city of Sochi. That can only be an attempt to provide a track related to the Syrian issue in Sochi with international legitimacy by transferring the international recognition that Astana had acquired by moving meetings to Sochi, which is an attempt to draw the Syrian issue from Geneva track, to be addressed singlehandedly by Russia with the recommendation of the guarantor states of Astana track.

We, in SWPM, believe that the only solution in Syria is a political one through Geneva track under the auspices of the United Nations, in accordance with Geneva 1 Communique and UNSCR 2254 as well as relevant international resolutions. Accordingly, we underscore the danger of transferring Astana meetings to Sochi, and we call on the Syrian opposition not to be dragged into that, no matter how much pressure should be practiced on it. We also call on the United Nations not to recognize the meetings to be held in Sochi and keep addressing the Syrian issue within Geneva track until the Syrian people’s demands of freedom, justice and equal citizenship in an democratic, pluralistic, modern and independent state are met.

May martyrs rest in peace, the detainees and the disappeared persons be free and our great people emerge victorious

General Secretariat of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement

May 17, 2018