The ever increasing number of mentions of the city of Astana across Middle Eastern media sources can be largely attributed to the Syrian peace talks that were held recently in this city. Local commentators and analysts have been paying a lot of attention to the results of the meeting, while arguing that they are shaping a new balance of power in Syria and across the region.
Unlike all the meeting that were held in Doha, Istanbul and Riyadh over the last three years, in Astana, Syria’s opposition forces were represented by field commanders, thus breaking a sort of a monopoly on the negotiations that was held by the so-called Supreme Commission for Negotiations sponsored and controlled by Saudi Arabia.
For a long time it would be believed that no negotiator could bring the representatives of Damascus and the militant warlords under one roof to negotiate the situation. However, once this goal has been achieved the sky is the limit for the Syrian peaceful settlement, notes a well-known Arabic columnist, A. Atwan.
The most influential Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, has expressed its hope that the meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana will strengthen the determination of the Syrian army and the Syrian people.
Many analysts praise the efforts of the three states that organized these negotiations and the guarantors of the ongoing ceasefire between the warring parties in Syria. The Lebanese Al-Diyar newspaper notes that Moscow is, above all, interested in a united Syria. While the three states behind the negotiations Iran, Turkey and Russia fulfill an unvoiced internal request to seek cooperation with each other, instead of being drawn into conflicts that are being staged across the region by US and EU think tanks.
Against this background, it would be naive to expect inaction from Damascus’ enemies, unable to hid their collective anger the Astana talks have triggered. Some of those enemies have been trying to represent the results of this meeting as a kind of “conspiracy” against the Arabs, organized by the three above mentioned powers.
Those analysts, living across the petrodollar-dependent Persian Gulf, are predicting the failure of the joint actions of Russia, Turkey and Iran. For instance, the London-based Arabic Al-Arab newspaper notes that although the present interests of the three states are similar, their understanding will not last for long, since each of them has a different strategic vision of the situation in question.
Some Arab commentators have expressed the idea that if the war between government forces and the forces backed by Ankara ends, yet another fight will begin, this time between militias that profess different views.
In recent days, in the north of Idlib an armed skirmish broke out between the fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups, in particular the militants of Jaish al-Mujahideen and Jabhat al-Shamiyah. The representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra explained these hostilities by citing the fact that representatives of the latter two groups took part in the meeting in Astana.
The al-Nusra front now attacks those who hold negotiations on behalf of the Syrian people, for the alleged absence of the authority to do so. It has also attacked the militants of the Syrian Free Army in northwest Syria.
At the same time, according to Arab media reports, five armed groups after the bloody clashes between them and the Jabhat al-Nusra radical group in the north of Syria, decided to join Ahrar al-Sham. It was announced that the group is taking the protection of the assaulted units into its own hands. This resulted in a number of smaller militant groups pledging their allegiance to the al-Nusra Front.
According to the Al-Waqt media platform, the reason behind these clashes lies in the fact that these groups were used to pursue the interests of the foreign sponsors of the Syrian conflict. And that they are now abandoned to their fate, and have thus begun fighting each other. The bitter rivalry between such groups is producing a devastating effect on the population of Syria who often fall victim of such clashes.
However, the effect produced by the Astana meeting is overall positive, the Al-Manar newspaper notes. It leads to the launch of the Syrian reconciliation process, even though it’s just starting now. The success of this process, just like the future of the political settlement, as it’s been shown by Syrian realities time and time again, will be determined on the field of battle.
Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”