International talks on Syrian crisis open in Austrian capital


VIENNA: A fresh round of international talks aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis in Syria has started in the Austrian capital city of Vienna, with representatives from the Iran attending the conference.
Apart from the Iran, the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, representatives from at least 12 other countries are also attending the talks. Those states are France, Germany, Egypt, Russia, Jordan, the UK, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq, Lebanon, China and Oman.
Envoys from the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) are also present at the talks.
Previous talks on Syria, mediated by the UN and dubbed Geneva I and II, failed to find a solution to end the conflict in the Arab country. Iran had not been invited to any of the talks.
The two conferences ended in failure after the West backed opposition figures in the talks refused to discuss widespread terrorism in the country and persisted in demanding the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a precondition.
The conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to UN.
The world body says 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assistance.
The foreign-sponsored militancy has displaced 7.6 million people.
Not too hopeful about the Syria talks
Middle East expert, Richard Silverstein Friday described the Vienna talks on the Syrian crisis a “hopeful sign,” especially in the wake of the ongoing influx of Syrian refugees into Europe.
He, however, cast doubt on the possible outcome of the negotiations due to the miscellany of the interests of the parties involved, and their conflicting nature in some cases.
Silverstein pointed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries over the Iran’s nuclear program as well as regional issues, noting that the agreement has paved the way for possible cooperation between Tehran and Washington on a number of issues to do with Middle East, and Iran’s stronger role as a regional player.
US shifting stance on Assad?
Separately, Kentucky-based political commentator John Miranda says that he expects that, at the end of the Vienna talks, US officials would drop their demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power. Agencies

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