The devastating war in Syria has lasted more than three years and has caused thousands of deaths and refugees. It is difficult to foresee a straightforward end to such a fraught and complicated conflict, but one thing is for sure: a lack of communication between warring factions will benefit no one.
As a signee of the 2013 Bishkek Declaration, Kazakhstan has formally expressed its desire to see a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria, and has thrown its support behind the framework of the Geneva II Conference on the issue. Its position is that the resolution of the Syrian conflict is possible by peaceful means only.
Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov has also repeatedly made it clear that Kazakhstan supports the efforts of the UN, the Arab League and Syrian government and opposition figures committed to determining the political future of the country through dialogue.
Now my country has a chance to go a step further, prompted by a recent written request from Syrian opposition representatives for Astana to provide a platform for dialogue, in the hopes of ending violence and bloodshed in the Middle Eastern nation.
In his reply to the letter, Minister Idrissov stated that Kazakhstan would consider establishing such a platform between the affected parties in Astana, inviting the authors to the city for an “informal and non-public exchange of views”. It is now expected these talks to take place towards the end of May.
I for one not only welcome such a development, but believe it could serve a crucial role in establishing peace in the region.
For many years, Kazakhstan has been instrumental – and, dare I say, underappreciated – in establishing often vital platforms of communication and mediation in Asia and Europe, from the CICA (Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia) Summits first proposed by President Nazarbayev in 1992, to the country’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 and the 2013 P5+1 talks with Iran held in Almaty, which have been described as among the most successful efforts to address Iran’s nuclear programme to date, contributing to the eventual success of the talks in Lausanne earlier this year.
Naturally, Minister Idrissov does not presume to gather all parties in Astana and solve the Syrian crisis in one fell swoop – indeed, his reply stresses that the invite is not intended to supersede existing negotiating platforms. But with a proven track record of success in peace negotiations and mediation, Kazakhstan may well be an ideal place in which to continue that much-needed dialogue.