Syrian groups convene for UN talks: breakthrough unlikely

Syrian groups convene for UN talks: breakthrough unlikely

UN-backed Syrian peace talks resume in Geneva on Tuesday as negotiators attempt to build on gains made at last week’s

Photo: Martial Trezzini/AP

Photo: Martial Trezzini/AP

UN-backed Syrian peace talks resume in Geneva on Tuesday as negotiators attempt to build on gains made at last week’s parallel Astana talks.

The Astana talks, backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, concluded with an agreement between the three countries to guarantee “de-escalation” zones within Syria. Details are scarce, but likely locations include the militant-held areas of Idlib and Homs and the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

The Syrian government said it would abide by the agreement if opposition groups also complied and helped push back Islamist militants. Given the poor state of relations between the parties, this is unlikely.

Representatives from the armed opposition have rejected the Astana plan, arguing that the zones could fracture Syria’s territorial integrity and that any ceasefire should hold over the entire country. Rebels are also opposed to Iran—a staunch ally of Mr Assad and one that’s committed its own troops and proxies to the fight—being a guarantor of any ceasefire plan.

Rebels are likely to make a push to remove Iran as a guarantor from the deal or threaten to reject the agreement altogether.