Russia is to take the role of Middle East power broker on Monday when it seeks to strengthen the Syrian ceasefire by sponsoring a face-to-face meeting between opposition fighters and representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The meetings, scheduled to last two days at a luxury hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan, will focus on how to extend the ceasefire negotiated in the wake of the opposition’s military defeat in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, at the hands of the Russian air force and Iranian-backed militias.
The talks are also sponsored by Turkey and Iran, but the US, the EU, Saudi Arabia and the UN are, for the moment, largely marginalised. Russia faces a new set of challenges as it attempts to move from participant in the conflict to peace broker.
Leaders of the Syrian opposition delegation, representing as many as 12 factions, claimed on the eve of the Astana talks that Moscow genuinely wanted to move to a neutral stance but was being held back by the Iranian and the Syrian governments.
Mohammed Alloush, the leader of the opposition delegation, said the failure of Moscow to put pressure on Iran and the Syrian government to end what the opposition says are widespread violations of the Turkish-Russian brokered ceasefire would be a blow to its influence in Syria.
SOURCE: News Now/The Guardian