Russia and Turkey, which for years have backed opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, say they will work to map the outlines of a peace agreement during negotiations this week, the first major test of whether the powers’ newfound cooperation can achieve a breakthrough to end the conflict.

The Trump administration has said it won’t be sending a delegation to the talks—which begin Monday in the Kazakh capital, Astana—despite being invited to attend alongside Syrian rebels and envoys from Iran, and will be represented instead by the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the talks are aimed at building on a recent cease-fire deal and would include Syrian rebel commanders. Mikhail Bogdanov, Mr. Lavrov’s deputy, said 14 rebel groups have agreed to take part and that Moscow hopes more will join.

Since the summer, Turkish and Russian officials have been discussing the outlines of what Ankara describes as a pragmatic interim political solution in Syria while working to achieve a consensus on a longer-term future for the fractured country.The fractured range of rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—and each other—could undermine the success of any deals struck.
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Featured image courtesy of AP.

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