Yesterday (23 January) was the first day of the international meeting on Syrian settlement that, however, ended without reaching agreement on how to monitor cease-fire. Still, both sides – the Syrian regime and the rebel opposition – continued in their effort to hammer out details of a potential agreement. The negotiations that are taking place in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, are expected to continue today, although the prospect of a deal is unclear. Russia and Turkey – two major players in the conflict – initially had high hopes for the conference as they believed that the meeting would start mapping out a solution to the six-year old conflict.
Russia’s special envoy to the talks, Alexander Lavrentyev, nevertheless said that the first day was “quite successful” and added that “there were meetings with the armed Syrian opposition. The delegation members were somewhat tense at the start, but then the level of mistrust that we saw in them at first evaporated”. The opposition to the regime of President Assad confirmed that they had met with the Russian, Turkish and United Nations delegations to discuss monitoring for a cease-fire.
The conference is sponsored by Turkey and Russia and the talks are also being facilitated by Iran. The United States and the United Nations have their representatives monitoring the conference but the European Union has not been invited at all. Their main objective is mostly targeted at bolstering a cease-fire agreement reached in December and at making progress with the conflict-resolution process that has been proceeding in Geneva under UN auspices. The next session of the Geneva talks is scheduled for 8 February.