The talks are being considered as “progressing” by the warring sides in attendance and an opposition spokesman, Yahya al-Aridi, said according to their understanding, they have “noticed a real understanding on the part of the Russians” who have militarily “achieved what they wanted in Syria” and are now planning to translate it “into some sort of political deal” in the form of a “ceasefire”.
Naser Hariri, a member of the Riyadh-based Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), also hailed Russian efforts saying that are “sending out a positive atmosphere” while adding that there are no plans to meet with the Iranian delegation. The HNC is not invited to the Astana talks but it is hoping to “benefit” from the atmosphere created by Russia “and bring them back to the previous level” of not supporting Damascus.
The last time the Syrian warring parties in the six-year old war met was nine months ago. Mohammed Alloush, a leader of the powerful Jaysh al-Islam group who heads the rebel delegation, insisted he wanted to stop “the horrific flow of blood” which could be facilitated by the pro-government forces adhering to the ceasefire agreements and Shia militias leaving the country.
Senior opposition negotiator Osama Abu Zaid said the “guarantors” of the Astana talks namely Russia, Turkey and Iran “have to do something more on the ground” if they want “success” because the opposition needs “more than just statements” of intent.
The guarantors’ alliance is based on de facto conditions. Turkey provides support to armed Syrian rebel groups and wants neither the Islamic State group nor Kurdish militias near its border. Russia’s military intervention is considered as a counter measure against Western policies while Iran’s engagement is seen as a projection of its foreign regional policies, military prowess and sectarian solidarity to President Assad.