Today, the fifth round of talks between the Syrian regime and opposition begin in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The talks are sponsored by Russia and Iran—crucial Assad-backers—and Turkey, a key sponsor of rebel forces.
The previous round of negotiations in early May ended with a commitment to establish four “de-escalation zones”, which both sides would refrain from attacking. The zones could be a site to repatriate Syrian refugees overburdening neighbouring countries, as well as a trade conduit to Jordan.
However, the thorny issue of administering the zones threatens to derail talks. Various plans have been proposed for both regime and opposition members to co-administer the section. They would operate under the military supervision of Turkish, Russian, Iranian, Turkish, Jordanian, and US forces—with different countries monitoring different zones. However, no groups want to concede potential footholds to rivals, stalling talks.
Despite this, progress is critical; successful cooperation between regime and opposition forces could be crucial in confidence-building between the two sides. While the Astana talks deal only with the implementation of narrow issues, a successful agreement could build momentum for the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva on July 10.
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