Delegates of the Astana peace process meet in the Kazakh capital for the 8th time today.
While UN-run efforts to end the Syrian civil war have floundered, the Astana talks—led by Russia, Iran and Turkey—have kept Syria’s warring parties at the negotiating table and succeeded in creating four internationally monitored ‘de-escalation’ zones.
Until recently, Moscow had sought to limit friction with the UN process, describing the Astana talks as complementary to, and supportive of, the Geneva-based talks. Now, as the conflict draws to a close, the Kremlin has championed its effort, along with Iran and Turkey, as an alternative platform to “fixed bureaucratic bodies” like the UN. Further undermining Geneva talks, the Syrian government has refused to discuss constitutional change or presidential elections—both are central to the UN’s efforts.
Now facing few other options, the UN has no choice but to continue engaging with Russian led efforts or face being sidelined entirely.
With little incentive to change course, Russia has organised the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in Sochi next February.
Delve deeper: Syrian peace: emergent settlement or talking in circles?
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