LONDON -- Representatives of the Syrian government and rebel factions met Monday in Astana, Kazakhstan, for the first peace talks between the two parties in a year.
“In a best-case scenario, you get increased humanitarian access to besieged areas accompanied by a beefed up cease-fire enhancement mechanism to be monitored by the three external actors [Russia, Turkey and Iran],” Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News.
“It reflects a lack of Western leverage on the ground,” said Barnes-Dacey. “This has been a conflict driven forward by regional actors. The U.S. and Europe have been very reluctant to get involved militarily.”
Haid Haid -- an associate fellow specializing in the Middle East at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a policy institute based in London -- said that the warring sides met ahead of Monday's official talks and weren’t able to agree on a deal. At the same time, Russia and Iran are divided, he said, which will make it more difficult to achieve an agreement. He said that the talks were planned to take place now to benefit from the administrative transition in the U.S.
“Russia and Turkey agree on any attempt to sideline the West because they believe that it will make it easier for them to reach a deal on Syria,” he told ABC News.
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov described Monday's meeting as “a clear manifestation of the international community’s efforts directed to peaceful settlement of the situation in Syria.”
“Kazakhstan believes that the only way to find a solution to the Syrian crisis is through negotiations,” he said.
Syria’s six-year war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of Syrians.