Mohamed Alloush, who will head the Syrian opposition’s delegation at upcoming talks in the Kazakh capital, said the delegation’s main aims were to secure a ceasefire and the release of captives held by the Assad regime, and an end to regime sieges on opposition-held areas.
"We’re going to Astana in hopes of securing a ceasefire, especially in the Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta areas south of Damascus," Alloush, a member of the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) opposition faction, told Anadolu Agency in exclusive comments.
"If a [ceasefire] deal -- that includes observers -- can be hammered out, the whole world will know who is violating the truce and who is shelling civilians," he said.
According to Alloush, the Assad regime and its allies did not always appear to be in agreement.
"The Shia militias don’t listen to Russia or the regime," he said, going on to assert: "They killed retired Major-General Ahmed al-Ghadban."
Al-Ghadban was reportedly killed by a sniper last week in Wadi Barada while coordinating a local reconciliation initiative.
Alloush also questioned whether Russia would be able to ensure that Iran and affiliated militias complied with agreements reached in Astana.
He went on to stress that opposition groups had complied with the latest ceasefire in Syria (which went into effect on Dec. 20) despite numerous violations by the regime and its allies.
"Russia now appears convinced of the need for a political solution to the crisis, unlike its position at the 2016 talks in Geneva," Alloush said.
Negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition negotiators -- aimed at finding a political solution to the six-year conflict -- are slated to begin in Astana on Jan. 23.
As for Syrian opposition groups’ contrasting positions vis-à-vis last month’s ceasefire deal, Alloush said: "Despite the disputes, there are clear, general goals that we all agree on."
"Some believe this isn’t the time for ceasefires and want to keep fighting; others disagree," he said, adding that most of the opposition groups that recently met in Ankara had agreed to take part in the upcoming talks.
"If the purpose of going to Astana is to secure a ceasefire, discuss the release of captives, and lift the siege on regime-blockaded areas, then we will have registered a major achievement that could eventually lead to a viable political solution," he added.
Alloush also stressed that the Syrian opposition would not compromise on "the blood of its martyrs" or abandon those still languishing in regime prisons or who remained under regime-imposed sieges.
"Syria is for everyone. We only want peace, freedom
"If we achieve what we want at the talks, this will be enough; there will be no need to fight," he added.
"But if we don’t [get what we want], those still holding their weapons will continue their struggle until victory," Alloush concluded.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.