Syrian Peace Talks in Astana

On January 23, Astana, the Capital of Kazakhstan, will be hosting the Syrian peace talks between the Syrian government and leaders of different factions of the Syrian opposition where Russia, Turkey and Iran will be the organizers and guarantors of the negotiations. There is a great chance that a ceasefire deal will be finally signed after five years of civil war that left more than 300,000 people killed and forced over half of the population to flee their homes.

Last Monday, Russia and Turkey invited the US new administration to the negotiations; however, Iran strongly opposes the US presence in Astana. In previous rounds of peace talks held by the UN in Geneva, which failed to end the conflict, the US was one of the major negotiators. Many Arab countries are expected to attend Astana’s talks including Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have been supporting the Syrian opposition since the beginning of the conflict.

Astana’s negotiations follow a nation wide ceasefire that began in December, but according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, it has been interrupted in the last few days by the Syrian regime forces and Jabahat Fateh al-Sham, an Islamic rebel group that is not part of the Syrian opposition.

Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari will head the government delegation while Mohammad Alloush, a leader in the Jaish al-Islam opposition group will head the rebel delegation to the meeting, in addition to a group of legal and political advisors from the High Negotiation Committee, Syria’s main opposition bloc. Only one of the main armed opposition groups, Ahrar al-Sham, will not be part of the talks due to the break of the ceasefire and the ongoing Russian airstrikes. However, it says that it will support the decision by other rebel groups attending in Astana.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, as well as other groups such as The Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will be excluded from the talks even though they have been engaged in the Syrian conflict since they do not represent the opposition or the Syrian regime. The SDF said it would not support the results because it was not invited to the talks.