Syrian rebels and the regime have started peace talks. What's next?

The talks brokered by Russia and Turkey have brought the Syrian regime and rebel fighters to the table. But will they be able to bring lasting peace?

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

This is the first time that Syrian rebels have sent representatives to a meeting that the Syrian regime is also attending.

Updated Jan 24, 2017

What is so important about these talks?

Rebel fighters from Syria and the regime of Bashar al Assad are taking part in negotiations for the first time.

Up until now, the Syrian opposition has been represented by leaders who live mostly in exile and do not necessarily exercise control over the various factions fighting the regime on the ground.

The Syrian civil war, which started in 2011, has resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 people and forced many more to flee the country.

No major breakthrough is expected out of the two-day meeting. 

It remains unclear if the rebel fighters will agree to hold face-to-face talks with the regime representatives. But even indirect negotiation is being seen as a significant step towards peace.

Who are the parties in this negotiation process?

The Syrian regime and the rebels.

The United Nation's special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is also attending. Iran, a backer of the Assad regime, is also playing a key role in the talks.

Jaysh Al-Islam leader Mohammed Alloush is representing the rebel fighters while the Syrian regime has sent its ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafri to the meeting.

The talks, which started on Monday and are being held in Kazakhstan's capital of Astana, have been sponsored by Russia and Turkey.

What do the warring sides want and how did they agree to the talks? 


The talks follow a truce between the rebels and the regime that went into effect on December 30, 2016.

It resulted in a ceasefire across Syria and allowed rebels and their families a safe passage out of eastern Aleppo, which was controlled by the rebels for five years and has now been retaken by the regime.

Except for a few skirmishes, the ceasefire has largely remained in place.

Previous negotiations that involved the Syrian opposition have failed to bring about peace.

Rebels have sought the release of prisoners and access to aid for the besieged towns still under their control.

The regime wants fighters to abandon their posts in exchange for safe passage and immunity.

Will they succeed in bringing lasting peace?

That's hard to say.

For now, the opposition groups have sidestepped the contentious subject of Assad's political future.

Turkey, the strongest backer of the Syrian opposition, is also striving alongside Russia to keep controversy out of the negotiation process.

The meeting will end on Tuesday and comes weeks before the UN-mediated talks in Geneva that start on February 8.

Is Russia the new broker for peace in Syria?

Russia's military intervention has helped the Assad regime to push out rebels from many cities including Aleppo.

Now it is in the driving seat of one of the most important peace talks on Syria.

Millions of Syrians have been pushed out of their homes due to the war. Their future remains uncertain.

This marks a shift in who decides the fate of future talks as historically it has been the UN that has led the initiative.

Former US President Barack Obama was often criticised for not using Washington's diplomatic muscle power to solve the Syrian crisis.

It is unclear how far President Donald Trump's administration will go in addressing the issue.

The US, which was invited by Russia, did not send a delegation to the talks, saying the administration was busy with Trump's transition into power. However, US ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, is attending as "an observer."