Astana talks: Light at the end of the tunnel?

Yunus Paksoy 2017-01-29 12:00:00

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Representatives of the Syrian opposition and the brutal Bashar Assad regime gathered in the Kazakh capital Astana on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the ongoing nationwide cease-fire in Syria and how it could be perfectly implemented given the past breaches since the New Year.

Prior to the negotiations, many questions were asked regarding whether the Astana summit could succeed in bringing together the Syrian opposition and the regime. It did not come as a surprise to me when I read that the two sides called each other terrorists at the beginning of the talks.

In addition, the two sides blamed each other for the cease-fire breaches. However, we know for a fact that the Assad regime had been bombing areas held by the opposition before the cease-fire, and it did not change afterwards.

The two-day ended with a statement which emphasized that Turkey, Russia and Iran wwould join forces to monitor the cease-fire and impose their influence on the opposition and the regime to make them respect it.

It is a fact that Iran has been using extremist armed groups and its generals in Syria to support the Assad regime. Also, Iran disrupted the Aleppo evacuation process and the ongoing cease-fire across Syria. With the inclusion of Iran in the Astana talks, a permanent peace in Syria could be harder to reach.

The closing satement also said that the Syrian opposition and the regime will gather in Geneva later in February for further talks. However, the opposition already stated that it would not start discussing a political solution until the cease-fire is fully implemented in Syria.

Looking at today’s situation in Syria, where the Assad regime breaches the cease-fire by bombing areas held by the opposition and killing civilians, nobody can expect the opposition to negotiate a political transition.

Though not going into discussing a political solution, the Astana talks brought a glimpse of hope to many. After a very long time, the opposition and the regime sat at the same table and listened to one another.

If Assad’s years-long war campaign against his own people is to end and millions of Syrians are to be safe again, there should be more summits and negotiations like the Astana talks. However, one thing is clear: While the opposition is sincere in its efforts to bring peace to Syria, the Assad regime should not be further allowed to go on playing its dirty and bloody games. Russia and Iran have to put in a sincere effort to pressure the brutal regime into respecting the cease-fire. Syria’s peace ball is now in their court. 


Yunus Paksoy is the chief reporter of the Istanbul-based Turkish newspaper DAILY SABAH. Paksoy has covered Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria and the Mosul Operation in Iraq and focuses on developments in Syria, the Middle East and Turkey’s southeast.