First time since the beginning of the Syrian war, rebel fighters officially gathered with Assad regime's representatives, in Astana peace talks in Kazakhstan. The talks were sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, including low profile Western presence. Apparently, the meeting would not have taken place without Russian backing of Syrian government that triggered a significant shift in the military balance. This crucial shift includes reconquering of major strongholds by the Syrian regime (such as Aleppo), defeating of the Syrian rebel groups and military weakening of jihadists led by ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Conducted under military orientation, Astana talks manifested motivations among sponsors not only to attain cease fire, but also to construct solid ground of trust between opponents. Thus, the talks are a test for partnership between Russia, Turkey and Iran. Moreover, they are a significant milestone in the relations between each one of them and various local militant groups acting in Syria (i.e. ISIS, Kurdish forces, Shia militias and Hezbollah).
The highly complex net of relationships between the three sponsors, stems from multiple complementary and rivalry interests, positions and concepts. In this context, there are currently several outstanding trends like the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, the lasting hostility between Turkey and Iran and the competition between Russia and Iran regarding power influence in Syria.
However, since its decisive military invasion to Syria in September 2015, Russia under Putin leadership get into a "game changer" position who directs and ruthlessly dictates a pragmatic resolution. From his strengthening position, Putin preserves President Assad and his Alawite regime while exploiting a weak American interest and involvement in Syria and rejecting EU states request to oust the Syrian leader as preliminary step for any resolution.
In the course of events, it is also necessary to take into consideration current local and international factors , that potentially may derail the current Russian track, such as ISIS terrorist plots, plans and attacks mainly against Western countries; Changes in the US involvement in the Middle East and Syria, mainly in respect to president Trump unknown policies; Changes in the current conflict between the EU states and Russia mainly concerning Eastern Europe.
Astana talks may resemble previous talks conducted by the UN and the West. However, Russia under Putin’s leadership may stop the bloodshed in Syria, nevertheless, the price will be the weakening of Western influence in the Middle East.
Following up and thoroughly understanding the Syrian evolving situation, requires to monitor not only the Syrian conflict, but also the international developments which at first hand seem unrelated.