Rebel groups fighting is Syria have decided to agree the Turkey and Russia-backed peace talks. The peace talks come on the heels of the truce in Syria, which began on December 30. The peace talks will take place on January 23 in Astana, which is the capital city of Kazakhstan. Officials belonging to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group, Jaish al-Islam and other FSA factions and rebels fighting in Northern Syria will attend the Astana peace talks.
However, they exclude groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, powerful Kurdish groups controlling northern Syria, Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other rebels groups. The decision to participate in the talks came after the rebels attended meetings in Ankara. Mohammad Alloush will lead Jaish al-Islam during the negotiations. FSA is yet to appoint a spokesman. However, many believe that the rebels will form a delegation and Alloush will head it in their bid to ‘neutralize the criminal role’ of Iran in Astana.
An article in Al Jazeera quotes Alloush saying that all the rebel groups are going to Astana. “Everyone has agreed,” he told AFP news agency. He said that the peace talks in Astana is a process to end the “bloodletting by the regime and its allies.” He added that the rebels wanted to end this series of crimes. Zakaria Malahifji, who belongs to another rebel group called the Fastaqim rebel group reiterated that most of the rebel groups have decided to attend the peace talks. He added that the talks will cover areas such as ceasefire as well as humanitarian issues like aid deliveries, release of detainees.
The Astana talks come after a slew of UN-held talks failed to offer a solution to the situation in Syria. As a result, the Astana talks and its results gain significance. According to a report in Yahoo News, the talks will be strictly focused on military developments. The rebel groups will reject discussions on any other political issue at Astana. UN-hosted negotiations on the conflict taking place in Geneva next month will be covering the other issues.
Assad’s government too is willing to attend the talks, which Russia and Turkey have set in motion. The two countries were on opposing sides for many years with regards to the conflict in Syria. However, they have been working together for some time to end the violence.
Change in priorities
Many believe that this might be because Turkey’s priorities seem to have changed over the years, states a Reuters report. For instance, Turkey’s relations with Russia have improved in recent months. Also, from fighting against Assad, Turkey backed rebels now seem to be fighting Kurdish groups and Islamic State in Northern Syria near its border. While representatives belonging to the US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team too are invited to Astana. However, they have not yet officially responded. Moscow too has been silent on US involvement in Astana talks.
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