A new round of peace talks to end the Syrian Civil War began today in Astana, Kazakhstan with Russia playing the role of arbiter between the warring factions and interests. The talks are supported by Iran and Turkey, as major combatants.
Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev expressed confidence that a political settlement to the six-year conflict was possible, wrote AFP.
Assad “has confirmed his readiness for… the preparation of a new constitution and the holding of new parliamentary and presidential elections on this basis”, Lavrentyev said on Monday.
Lavrentyev called Assad’s acceptance earlier this month of a constitutional reform process “a very important announcement,” reported AFP.
Lavrentyev also stated that Russia is ready to hold a “congress of the peoples of Syria” with all warring factions at the table to try and iron out a path forward. The event could be held at Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria.
U.N talks on finding a solution to the conflict are supposed to begin on Nov. 28th. The Astana talks seem to be focused on details of setting up four de-escalation zones in the conflict, policed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
Russia is keen to be seen as a world power in mediating and pushing for peace in Syria. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main goals of the conflict is to reassert Russian influence in the Middle East.