The Syria peace talks held in Astana, Kazakhstan, got off to a bad start when rebels refused to negotiate with Bashar al Jaafari of the Syrian government face to face. The Syrian delegation branded this as insolent and provocative.
The negotiations are sponsored by Turkey, Iran, and Russia and aim to end the five-year long Syrian conflict. Some are saying this is a test of Russia’s influence in the Middle East.
A leaked document shows that broadly speaking the talks support the U.N process. It calls for joint action to defeat terrorist groups such as Islamic State, and it wants to implement a trilateral process to monitor the ceasefire.
These talks to bring peace in Syria are unique as for the first time opposition delegation is not drawn from political representatives, but the armed rebel groups themselves. A move designed to build trust between the parties.
Leader of the opposition delegation, Mohammed Alloush, stated that peace talks were more difficult as Iranian-sponsored militia were fighting alongside Syrian troops. He called for them to leave the country and for the release of prisoners from government jails, citing 13,000 women were being held in arbitration.
The opposition’s demand of the departure of Assad and Iranian militias before the peace process can begin puts them at odds with the regime.
A spokesman for the rebels said the first talks were not held face to face due to continued bombardment by the Syrian regime on an area near Damascus.
Russia’s Great Hope
Russia has placed a lot of hope in these peace talks. They believe as the Obama administration is no longer involved and the opposition defeat in Aleppo the talks stand a chance of succeeding. This has been strengthened by the fact that Turkey, once an opponent of Assad no longer sees him as an obstacle to reaching a lasting agreement.