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    Major Reasons Why Astana, Rather Than Geneva, Has Chance to Bring Peace to Syria

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    On January 23, Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is scheduled to host talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, where Russia, Turkey and Iran will serve as guarantors of the negotiations. Russian media reviewed the reasons why any deal made in this Asian city has the potential to succeed where similar efforts failed in Geneva.

    Talks on Syria’s political future are scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on January 23.

    Russia and Turkey last month brokered a ceasefire in the ravaged country, which was backed by the opposing sides in the protracted war but was done without the involvement of Washington, a negotiator in previous ceasefires.

    "Taking into consideration that the agreements on the peace talks in Astana were achieved among Presidents Putin and Erdogan, there is not much choice left for the Syrian opposition," Russian online newspaper Vzglyad has said in its analysis on the issue.

    It further specified that by the Syrian opposition it meant not only the rebel groups which depend on Turkey but also pro-Saudi forces, as they understand only too clearly that their refusal to take part in the talks will automatically label them as terrorists alongside the Islamic State (Daesh) and al-Nusra Front.

    "Therefore marking them as targets for airstrikes by the Russian aviation," the outlet says.

    "Hence, Astana is expected to host quite a serious delegation of the Syrian opposition. And even if Damascus and the rebels won't sit down at the negotiating table, limiting themselves only to contacts via intermediaries, the chances that a ceasefire will be signed remain very high. And it would be a sensation," it adds.

    As Russia, Turkey and Iran act as the organizers of the negotiations and guarantors of the ceasefire, when it is signed it will be only too clear that these three countries will continue further forcing peace on Syria.

    All the rest, including the part of the Syrian armed opposition which opts not to come for the talks in Astana and certain external players, will be forced to join the process.

    Meanwhile, Russia is preparing seriously for the upcoming negotiations. President Putin is holding phone conversations with the Turkish, Iranian and Syrian leadership and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

    On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry held extended Russian-Chinese consultations on Syria, with the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa Department, Sergei Vershinin, and the Chinese Government’s Special Envoy for Syria, Xie Xiaoyan, who is currently in Moscow on a working visit.

    "The sides discussed the current military and political situation in Syria, ways to enforce and consolidate the ceasefire, and a resumption of the negotiating process in order to move a Syrian crisis solution closer. The Chinese official was briefed in detail on Russia’s efforts to organize an international meeting on a Syrian settlement in Astana," reads the statement on the official website of the ministry.

    Next week, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh is planning to pay a visit to Moscow and Egypt and Iraq are also expected to be invited to Astana.

    In addition, The Washington Post reported on Friday that Russia has invited the incoming Trump administration to take part in the process "from which the Obama administration pointedly has been excluded."

    "The invitation, extended to Trump’s designated national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, came in a December 28 phone call to Flynn by Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington, according to a transition official," the newspaper said.

    "US participation, especially if an agreement is reached, would be the first indication of the enhanced US-Russia cooperation that President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump have forecast under a Trump administration," it further stated, adding that a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the United States would attend the talks.

    Earlier media reports also suggested that the Turkish leader revealed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar can be also invited to Astana.

    Cities of the world. Astana
    © Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresenskiy
    Cities of the world. Astana

    Meanwhile, Vzglyad notes that it is only too clear why it is Astana which has been chosen as the site for the negotiations.

    "It is a clear demonstration that it is Russia who is playing the key role in the settlement of the Syrian crisis," it says.

    "Kazakhstan is Russia's closest ally, a member of the Eurasian Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russian-Chinese project which is gradually becoming Pan-Asian," it further elaborates.

    Kazakhstan is also a Muslim country, and so there is no better place for the talks, it says.

    "It is in an Asian, Muslim, ally country where Russia should find a solution to the major world problem, the war, which is going on in the Muslim and Asian country, also allied to Russia," it says.

    "Not in Geneva where first of all western countries have been fruitlessly trying to bring together Assad and the rebels, but in Eurasian Astana," it states.

    It further elaborates that Astana does not mean any further talks in Geneva will be cancelled, but the meeting which is scheduled to take place in Geneva on February 8 will only have context in the wake of any successes made in the Kazakh capital.

    "By that time the new US administration will appear in time and Tillerson (Trump's nominee for the secretary of state) will arrive in Switzerland," the outlet says.

    The newspaper does not rule out that the two locations will then run in parallel, complementing one another, however "everyone will understand which one is the key one."

    Both the US and Saudi Arabia will be left with the only option to join the Astana talks, it states.

    Besides, it will allow bringing in the respected Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who will create a stabilizing effect for the Russian-Turkish agreement.

    "Nazarbayev is very convenient for the Islamic world, for the West and for China. Hence, if the negotiations in Astana are successful in finding a formula for the Syrian settlement, it will enhance the international reputation of Nursultan Nazarbayev," the website says.

    The settlement of the Syrian conflict is set to become a lengthy and tedious process as both Russia and Damascus are not interested in the partition of Syria, Hence, there will be very complicated negotiations between various Syrian groups, clans, tribes, communities and their external backers.

    "However if these negotiations take part amid the ceasefire on the larger part of the Syrian territory, it in itself will be a huge achievement reached in Astana," it finally concluded.

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    Related:

    Syria Peace Talks in Astana Could Be Postponed for a Week
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    Tags:
    opposition, Syrian peace talks, Syrian ceasefire, Syrian conflict, Syrian government, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Syria, Astana, Kazakhstan
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