As talks falter, Moscow finds brokering Syria peace trickier than waging war

ASTANA:  With its show of military force, Russia changed the tide of the Syrian civil war. It is finding the next phase — brokering an end to the fighting — a tougher proposition.
A round of Syria peace talks sponsored by Russia ended on Thursday with no joint communique, usually the minimum outcome of any diplomatic negotiation, and saw opposing Syrian groups exchanging angry tirades at each other and the brokers.
With no concrete progress to report, media representatives at the talks venue in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, were so hungry for a scrap of news that at one point a crowd formed around an Arabic speaker who they thought was a participant in the talks. He turned out to be another journalist.

Western diplomats, who say Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign of air strikes has worsened the conflict, have, in private, reacted to Russia’s tribulations as a peacemaker with variations on the phrase: “We told you so.”
Russia proposed a series of negotiations in the Kazakh capital Astana late last year with the expectation that, as the predominant outside power in Syria following its military intervention, it could break a deadlock that had defied the repeated efforts of the big Western powers and U.N. mediators.
Moscow’s peace drive started hopefully, with the first Astana meeting in January. The Syrian rebels and government came together for the first time in 9 months, and agreement was reached to consolidate a shaky ceasefire.
But by the second round this week, things had gone downhill. The Syrian rebels debated until the eleventh hour about whether to attend at all, finally sending a smaller delegation which arrived in the Kazakh capital a day late.

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