May 4, 2017
The fourth round of the Astana Syria Talks ended on May 4th. Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed Thursday to create four de-escalation zones in Syria. The security zones will include Idlib province, parts of Lattakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces, and also parts of Homs province and the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
Despite the participation of a senior U.S. diplomat in the Astana talks, the Department of State expressed concerns over the four-way agreement between the sponsors. “We continue to have concerns about the Astana agreement, including the involvement of Iran as a so-called ‘guarantor.’ Iran’s activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran’s unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians,” said Heather Nauert in a press statement.
The Kurds in Syria did not participate in Astana’s fourth round due to persistent rejections by Turkey. Also, Turkey rejected the Kurds taking part in the previous Geneva Peace Talks on Syria.
The Kurds have rejected the results of the Astana talks in the past since they were not invited. As the Kurds have been excluded from all the Syria peace talks, in January 2017 the Department of State spokesperson Mark Tuner said: “At some point, [PYD] have to be a part of this process.”
In March 2016, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and in cooperation with secular Arab and Christian parties, announced the Northern Syria Federation. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the military forces of the Northern Federation. Currently, the SDF is liberating the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa in an operation called “Wrath of Euphrates,“ which is backed by the U.S.-led international coalition.