Syrian rebel groups say will attend Astana peace talks

It looks like a successful strategy to edge the United Nations, U.S., and Western powers out of the picture, replacing them with Turkey as the major-power representative of rebel forces – a representative that has been working to develop a closer relationship with Moscow ever since Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet along the Syrian border, a little over a year ago.
Boys stand in front of a damaged wall in the rebel-held besieged Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria, Jan. 17, 2017.On Wednesday, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran, Russia and Turkey have not sent any “joint invitation” to the U.S. for taking part in the talks.Russian Federation and Turkey brokered the cease-fire in late December, but violence recently has escalated throughout Syria, particularly around the capital of Damascus.The incoming USA administration led by Donald Trump has been invited to participate in Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Tuesday.Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was “optimistic” about the talks and would be “ready for reconciliation with (rebels) on condition that they lay down their arms”.

Poland Welcomes Biggest Deployment of US Troops in Decades
The deployment is a reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. CNN reports there are also 2,400 pieces of military equipment including tanks sent over.
“He [President Vladimir Putin] is now a major player in the Middle East”.Invitations have not yet been formally issued, partly because Turkish efforts to persuade the Syrian rebels to attend have gone on longer than expected.Lavrov said like other Syria’s opposition groups, Jaysh al-Islam group also expressed its willingness to sign cease-fire deal with the Syrian government. “All the rebel groups are going”.It will be followed by a new round of peace talks between the Syrian government and foreign-sponsored opposition groups in Astana on January 23.Lavrov expressed hope that Russian Federation and the United States would be able to work more closely on countering terrorism, particularly in Syria, after Donald Trump becomes the USA president. Trump has said on a number of occasions that he hopes better relations with Moscow will help counterbalance Iran’s expanding regional role.On Sunday, at least nine civilians were killed by government shelling of a rebel-held village there, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.