Izvestia: Astana peace talks set to differentiate between terrorist and opposition groups

Representatives from Russia, Iran, Turkey and Jordan are expected to put an end to the issue of divided Syrian opposition to moderate and radical groups at their meeting in Astana scheduled for February 15-16. Experts think this will seriously expedite both the task of tackling terrorists and holding peaceful talks, Izvestia wrote.

According to the newspaper's informed source in military and diplomatic circles, Russia and its partners in Astana talks are determined to define the lists of ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ groups of the Syrian opposition during the next round of the negotiations. The former are considered as potential participants in the peace talks, while the latter will be targeted for a resounding defeat, the source added.

"On Monday, the main criteria for assessment of the groups were set - their involvement in terrorist activities, dealing with civilians and ideology," he said, adding that considering the "assumption that not all fundamentalist groups should be viewed as radical and terrorist as the main breakthrough." "The key task for now is to divide the groups, which used to be part of the former Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham(terror groups, outlawed in Russia)," the source said.

According to Elena Suponina, an advisor to the Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, the move to differentiate between moderate and radical opposition may kill three birds with one stone. "First, this will make the war against with terrorists easier for all sides, as the military will understand which positions are permitted to be bombed and which are not," she told Izvestia. Second, ‘moderate’ groups will be able to join the peace process," Suponina said. "They will have to stop hostilities, sit down to talk with the government and agree the settlement’s parameters," she said. "Finally, the dispute between international players regarding which opposition representatives should be considered as terrorists will clear up, which will seriously facilitate cooperation towards a peace process with Turkey, Iran and Jordan, and potentially - with the United States and the countries of the Persian Gulf.

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