Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Kazakhstan were a coup for their international sponsors, but exposed the limits of what Russia, Turkey and Iran can achieve in their efforts to resolve the six-year-old war.

It was the first time in nine months the two sides had come together, albeit briefly and unhappily, and the first time that Moscow, Ankara and Tehran had presided over such talks, with the United States only present as an observer.

The fact that the talks happened at all was a diplomatic coup that underlined the three countries’ growing Middle East clout and Washington’s diminished influence at a time when Donald Trump is settling into the presidency.

At the end of two chaotic days, Moscow, Ankara and Tehran backed a shaky Dec. 30 truce between Syria’s warring parties and agreed to monitor its compliance.

Yet negotiations did not go to plan, showing that the three would-be Syria conflict brokers, in their different ways, all have credibility problems. This suggests they may have to involve Washington and the Gulf States more fully if they are to have any chance of brokering a final deal.


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