Residents walk through the destruction of the once rebel-held Salaheddine neighborhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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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 nearly 6-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 head of the Russian delegation, Alexander Lavrentyev, hailed the talks, held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, as the "birth" of a new negotiating format, and there were hopes they might make it more likely that U.N.-brokered talks could take place in Geneva next month.Back at the talks, rebels and Western diplomats questioned the role of Iran and its allies.The talks yielded a joint communique from Russia, Turkey and Iran that pledged to create a monitoring mechanism to police Syria's patchy cease-fire, but the rebels did not endorse it.The opposition demanded talks focus solely on a cease-fire that should require Iranian-backed militias to quit Syria.Alloush, the head of the rebel delegation, called the Syrian government "a bloody despotic regime," while Jaafari, head of the government delegation, accused the opposition negotiators of defending "war crimes" and of being rude and unprofessional.
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