Hundreds of journalists from around the world are at Astana, Kazakhstan today to cover the highly anticipated peace talks between the Syrian government and some rebel groups. Russia, Turkey, and Iran brokered the initiative to end the six-year conflict in Syria that displaced millions and left nearly 500,000 people dead.
The negotiation format remains unclear as each of the representatives from the 15-man opposition has no common platform and leader with each having their own unique issues. The opposition militant group includes delegates from 15 different sectors in Syria.
“The delegation includes several groups, there is no head of the delegation in general. Each group has its own position,” said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Roman Vasilenko.
Russia, Turkey, and Iran also discussed on whether a direct contact forum between the Syrian government and opposition groups is possible. They hope to announce the final format before the opening of the Astana talks on Monday, January 23 (7:00 GMT), at Rixos Hotel.
The Russian delegation is optimistic of a positive outcome of the negotiations and hopeful that the two-day talks could patch unresolved issues between the government and the rebels for the greater benefit of the Syrian people.
“We are not looking for easy solutions to this long-standing conflict but we are doing everything we can to bring together the positions of the parties to this conflict: the Syrian government and the opposition,” said Aleksandr Lavrentiev, head of the Russian delegation in Astana and Russian President’s special envoy to Syria.
Also included in the negotiations are representatives from the United Nations led by UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, and the US ambassador to Kazakhstan on an observer status. The Astana talks hope to perpetually extend the December 29 ceasefire agreement in Syria spearheaded by the governments of Russia, Turkey, and Iran.