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Astana format meets to discuss Syrian peace process


Astana format meets to discuss Syrian peace process

Photo AP
Photo: AP Photo

Astana format members will begin discussing the Syrian peace process today in Sochi.

Led by Russia, Turkey and Iran, the Astana format serves as a forum for negotiation among opposing factions involved in Syria’s civil war. Though originally established as a complementary track to UN-backed peacebuilding efforts, the Astana talks currently function as an alternative to UN discussions.

The format has been criticised by opposition members for purportedly elevating the diplomatic importance of militant outfits lacking significant ties to anti-Assad political groups. Opposition leaders also condemn the creation of a de-escalation zone in Idlib province, maintaining that the zone undermines the opposition’s organisational and operational unity. Currently, Astana-facilitated negotiations have yet to effect a nationwide ceasefire.

Today’s talks, called in response to the failure of Syria’s Constitutional Committee to draft a new constitution ahead of upcoming national elections, will likely see delegates encourage continuing constitutional discussions. However, a near-term agreement on constitutional questions is unlikely as President Bashar al-Assad favours holding national elections under the unamended charter. In the long-term, with sizable militant and political groups excluded from negotiation processes and stark divisions present among potential settlement guarantors, expect the conflict to continue without resolution.

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