Much has changed in Syria, but UN-led talks still sput­ter

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Weather -

BEIRUT » Much has changed since Syria’s war­ring sides met for the last round of U.N.-bro­kered talks in Geneva last sum­mer.

The Is­lamic State group has been de­feated in all its ma­jor strongholds, rebels seek­ing to top­ple Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad have been sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened and Rus­sia, Iran, Turkey and the U.S. have en­gaged in high level diplo­macy that has largely frozen the lines of con­flict.

Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the U.N. is sidestep­ping for now the di­vi­sive is­sue of As­sad’s fu­ture in a post-war Syria, a ques­tion that has de­railed all pre­vi­ous at­tempts to end the coun­try’s dev­as­tat­ing war.

In this light, diplo­mats are hop­ing that at last the par­ties in Syria may be ready to make some for­ward progress in talks that for­mally got un­der­way with the ar­rival of the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion Wed­nes­day. But there is lit­tle op­ti­mism that the cur­rent round would achieve any sig­nif­i­cant break­throughs.

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