U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrives to attend the talks on Syrian peace in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Syria talks in the Kazakh capital Astana come at a time of significant changes to the conflict in its sixth year.The talks are sponsored by Russia and Iran, allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which supports the opposition. They notably lack a major U.S. role and come days after new President Donald Trump took office.Russia's delegation is led by President Vladimir Putin's special adviser on Syria.For the first time in internationally sponsored talks, Syrian armed groups – not political – are leading the opposition.The talks come at a time when Turkey's policy in Syria is changing. Turkey has sent troops into Syria to fight Daesh, who turned their terror against the Turkish state, and thwart Kurdish aspirations for autonomous rule along Syria's border with Turkey. Russia says the talks will help pave the way for U.N. talks expected in Geneva next month by ensuring field commanders participate in the peace process.Rebels say they are in Astana only to ensure a cease-fire is extended to all of Syria, while Washington is contemplating its new Syria policy.For Assad, the talks are another capitulation by the nonextremist rebel groups, who are reeling from battlefield losses.
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