UN-led Peace Talks Raise Fresh Hope for Syria

Russia, Iran, and Turkey have promised support for Syria’s fragile ceasefire after talks between the Syrian Government and the armed opposition.

Two days of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, discussing Syria’s six-year war, saw Russia, Iran, and Turkey pledge to strengthen the truce, which has been in place for 3 weeks. In addition to representatives from the three countries, the talks were the first time that Syrian opposition participated in the discussions alongside representatives of the Syrian Government.

Continued fighting among warring factions, as well as infighting among the opposition, pose a threat to the deal, but there are plans for Russia, Iran and Turkey to meet again to lay the parameters for a mechanism to reinforce the ceasefire.

“We cannot allow another ceasefire to dissolve because of a lack of a political process,” said United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who acted as a mediator between the Syrian Government and the rebels.

A united approach from Russia and Iran (the main supporters of President Bashar Assad) and Turkey (the primary support for the rebels) has raised hopes for a diplomatic solution to the war. Previous attempts by the US and Russia to ensure a lasting ceasefire had failed, and the US did not play a significant role in the Astana talks.

Mr de Mistura said the agreement is a “concrete step” towards implementation of Security Council resolutions on the issue.

“The ceasefire can additionally help the fight of the international community against terrorism in Syria and the wider region,” Mr de Mistura said.

With more than 650,000 people in besieged areas in Syria, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the ceasefire is expected to allow greater humanitarian aid to areas previously cut off by the fighting.

Photo: Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, briefs journalists. UN Photo/Violaine Martin