Timid "breakthrough" in first direct peace talks on Syria in Astana

For Turkey, the meeting has increased the level of "trust" between the two sides. Russian expert: "The beginning of a" process with an important aspect in "psychological terms." But positions between government and rebels remain distant, awaiting UN meeting in Geneva.


Astana (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An important “breakthrough" for the future of the Syrian conflict and an "important psychological step", although it is only the first in a "long process" to ensure lasting peace in the country. Cautious satisfaction was expressed by the organizers of direct talks between the Syrian government and rebel groups, which were held on 23 and 24 January in Astana, Kazakhstan. A meeting sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with the blessing of the United Nations present as observers.

Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stressed that the two sides "to the conflict" have discussed the ways to strengthen the cease-fire and "its extension across Syria". It was an "important" meeting, he adds, because it has increased "the level of trust" between the two sides.

"We hope - continues Cavusoglu - that responses to the Astana talks will be a contribution to the Geneva process [of peace] [under the UN auspices], and will be a crucial point for the future of Syria."

In Astana, representatives of the government and opposition have sat at the same table for the first time, to discuss possible solutions to ensure a lasting truce in the Arab country. At the end of two days of talks, Moscow, Ankara and Tehran have agreed to guarantee the continuation of the truce in Syria and block any violations. The "mechanism will prevent any provocation" and monitor effective compliance with the cease-fire.

In widespread joint statement by representatives of the three countries - but which was not signed by the parties concerned - emphasizes the commitment of each power to "restrain" their faction and prevent further violence.

Russia is a guarantor in respect of the regular army of President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey will halt the rebels who joined the truce, about half of the total. Iran will control the Shiite militias, from 30 to 50 thousand men, a force that is now almost equal to the official Syrian armed forces.

Analysts and experts believe that these talks are "positive and important" from a psychological point of view. Boris Dolgov, a researcher at the Center of Arab and Islamic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explains that it is "the beginning” of a process and we still do not know “where it will lead” but it nonetheless represents an "important event, another step in attempt to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. "

For many observers, the main limitation of the meetings in the capital of Kazakhstan is that only some of the many rebel groups and fighters in the area participated. Moreover, while it a the "official" ceasefire on the battlefield has been consolidated, clashes between the so-called moderate rebels and jihadists are becoming harsher. The epicenter of the clashes in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, where some of the most intense battles of the past three years have taken place.

The caution with which these talks in Astana are being judged is all in the final words of the respective fronts in the struggle. The leader of the opposition negotiator Mohamed Allouche pointed out that "there is no tangible progress in the negotiations because of the intransigence of Iran and the Syrian regime." Bashar Jaafari, the representative of the Syrian government, instead responded "Astana took place in a very specific context, with only one purpose, which is to consolidate the ceasefire. Geneva is quite another thing. "