Elements of the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime will meet in Kazakhstan’s capital today. The meeting- the sixth of its kind to take place in Astana- aims to hammer out a fourth de-escalation zone in the northern Idlib province.
Where the UN-sponsored peace process has failed to achieve broader peace across Syria, the Astana talks have been successful in negotiating a number of short-term localised ceasefires.
The suspension of ground and air operations in these areas has allowed for the return of internally and regionally displaced refugees, as well as an increase in the flow of humanitarian aid.
With over one million civilians and the dominant presence of former al-Qaeda affiliates Hayat Tahrir al Sham, Idlib has been characterised as the most complex zone. Securing a ceasefire in this area would allow government forces to shift their focus to combatting Tahrir al Sham and securing key humanitarian supply routes out of Turkey.
As with previous talks, expect broad agreement on the boundaries of the Idlib de-escalation zone, but contention over the use of Iranian and Russian troops for ceasefire enforcement.
Delve deeper: Syrian peace: emergent settlement or talking in circles?
Get a daily geopolitical forecast. Download The Daily Brief in the App Store.