With this newest ceasefire in an attempt to halt the destruction of the civil war in Syria, both the Assad regime and the opposition have agreed to hold talks in Kazakhstan. But why Kazakhstan? It turns out that there was behind the scenes diplomacy back in July (i.e. assistance from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) that resulted in a quick thawing of previously icy relations between Turkey and Russia. Kazakhstan is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and took advantage of an opportunity to flex its diplomatic muscle in bringing about this change. The Turkish – Russian rapprochement came during a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization back in July of 2016. When the peace talks begin in Astana, Russia will be siding with the Assad govt while Turkey will be siding with the opposition.
Hopefully the ceasefire will hold and the residents can get back to their normal lives. As far as Syria’s political future is concerned, it will probably end up with a power sharing agreement between Assad and the opposition. However, territory under the control of the Islamic State is explicitly excluded. Erdogan is keen on expanding his influence in Syria so quite possibly the Alawite domination that has been a part of Syrian govt under Assad will change in a direction more favorable to Sunni participation. Despite Syria being predominately Sunni Muslim, Assad is a member of the Alawite Sect (a branch of Shia Islam).