The continuing search for a solution to Syria
Syrian, Iranian and Turkish delegates arrived in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Jan. 30 for a two-day peace conference on bringing the Syrian war to a close,
but behind-the-scenes conflict has left experts with low expectations for the Russian-sponsored talks.
Moscow, an ally to the Syrian government, invited 1,600 delegates to Sochi in a bid to create a road map for ending the war.
But the Syrian Negotiation Commission, the country’s main opposition group, boycotted the event.
They argued that the talks will only benefit Syria’s President Bashar Assad,
who has regained the upper hand and appears unwilling to step down despite opposition groups’ demands.
Complicating matters is Turkey’s creation of another front in the multi-sided, nearly seven-year conflict.
Ankara considers Kurdish militias a security threat and on Jan. 20 began an offensive on Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria.
As a result, the Kurds—who control about 25% of Syrian territory and are the main U.S. ally against ISIS—also declined to attend.
A leaked draft of the final statement of the talks calls for the lifting of unilateral sanctions on Syria and for additional Western aid in the region’s reconstruction.
But, just as the summit's credibility had been hurt by the absence of opposition groups, that plan would likewise be compromised.
Western nations such as the U.S. and France, who would be key to its implementation, did not attend
because they believe the Syrian regime is refusing to engage with the opposition.
Like the nine rounds of U.N. peace talks before it, Sochi might also be in vain.