ALLOUSH, LEADER OF JAYSH AL-ISLAM, IS AT THE MEETING. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME HE'S HAD FACE-TO-FACE DISCUSSIONS WITH THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT. SEE RT REPORT AND THE VIDEO REPORT AT THE RT PAGE FOR DETAILS.
UPDATE 10:00 AM EST
From AP 'live blogging' timeline of events (via AMN) at the talks:
After the opening ceremony in which the Syrian rebels and the government delegation sat across from one another at a round table, the talks went into a closed session. There was no indication if rebels and government officials would be talking face-to-face behind closed doors but Lavrov's remarks indicated that part of the gathering is more similar to proximity talks, with de Mistura shuttling between the two sides.So it looks like it's back to sprinting for de Mistura. Disappointing.
That's one of the conference rooms in the fabulous five-star Rixos President Astana hotel, which I highlighted in an earlier post. [squinting] But where where are the platters of cheese danishes? I guess no dropping of crumbs on that rug. And no coffee cups, either; just water bottles. So this is a very serious discussion.
Now notice that unlike the negotiations in Switzerland, where de Mistura had different groups sequestered in different rooms while he literally ran back and forth between rooms, everybody is seated in the same room -- albeit with plenty of space in case the discussions get terribly heated. That's a good start.
The AP photo, taken by Sergei Grits, is from Sputnik's report today, All You Need to Know About Astana Talks Sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran. I think Sputnik already covered everything we need to know (see the reports at the above link). Let's see ...... a few new items in the report. Uh oh. The Saudi faction is supposed to be there. I thought they'd been excluded. Phooey! Well at least they can't say anyone's been shut out.
All right; the report is also a good review so I'll publish it here. The talks, at least the formal part, may have ended for the day; Astana is 11 hours ahead of Washington, DC time (EST), so it's now 6:42 PM at the hotel. So there could be more reports on the meeting very soon from Sputnik.
11:24 - 23.01.2017 (updated 14:48 - 23.01.2017)
Representatives of President Bashar al-Assad and armed rebel groups fighting against him are scheduled to take part in talks, sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, in a bid to reinforce the ceasefire and pave the way for a peace process aimed at putting an end to the six-year-long war which has claimed more than 300,000 lives.