Syria's warring sides met for talks in the Kazakh capital Astana on Monday (January 23), flanked by international supporters. Expectations of a breakthrough are low, however. Lucy Fielder reports.
Syria's warring sides coming together for talks in the Kazakh capital Astana on Monday (January 23). But expectations of a breakthrough are low. With Syrian rebels saying they'll only talk to the government side through intermediaries, and no senior government figures in the delegations. Both sides to the six-year-old conflict flanked by their international supporters. And at odds over whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, bolstered by retaking Aleppo from the rebels in December, should stay on or step down. The political nitty-gritty unlikely to even make it on to the Astana agenda. Instead, baby-steps towards bolstering a floundering ceasefire and beginning to overcome mistrust. Officials from Russia, which backs Assad, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, both playing down hopes. The United Nations hoping the Astana talks could jump-start direct, U.N.-led negotiations. The talks billed as, at best, a first step on a long and rocky road.