Russia in power-broking role as Syria peace talks begin in Astana – Patrick Wintour Monday 23 January 2017 04.03 EST


Indirect talks between Syria’s rebels and representatives of Assad’s government seen as test of Moscow’s power

Representatives of the Assad regime and rebel groups assemble for Syria peace talks at Astana’s Rixos President hotel on Monday. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Representatives of the Assad regime and rebel groups assemble for Syria peace talks at Astana’s Rixos President hotel on Monday. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Indirect talks between Syrian rebel factions and government representatives have opened in Kazakhstan, as Russia takes on the role of Middle East power broker.

The meetings, scheduled to last two days at a luxury hotel in the Kazakh capital, Astana, will focus on how to extend the ceasefire negotiated after the opposition’s crushing military defeat in Aleppo at the hands of the Russian air force and Iranian-backed militias.

It had been hoped the talks would lead to a face-to-face meeting between opposition fighters and representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s government. However, rebels said on Monday they had no plans for direct talks.

The talks are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The US, the EU, Saudi Arabia and the UN are, for the moment, largely marginalised. Russia faces a new set of challenges as it attempts to move from participant in the conflict to peace broker.

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