Russian-sponsored diplomatic talks dubbed’ the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue’ have begun in the city of Sochi. However, experts predict that the summit is a thinly veiled attempt to enforce a political solution that is in line with the Syrian government and concurrently Russian agenda.

Preceded by similar negotiations - UN-sponsored talks in Geneva to Russian-Turkish-backed talks in Astana - this summit is meant to examine the key questions on Syria’s national agenda. However, as with previous talks, the ultimate sticking point still is the removal President Assad, where the Syrian government has consistently refused to agree to Assad stepping down and the armed opposition deems Assad’s removal as a prerequisite to peace. Also, while representatives from the UN, Syrian, Iranian and Turkish governments will attend, any attempt at brokering peace talks will lose credibility due to the absence of the main opposition bloc - the Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) that has vowed to boycott the talks.

Ultimately these talks need be discerned as another strategic move by Russia to endure as a dominant player in this stand-in war that has altered Syria’s social, political and economic landscape. As is evinced in the recently violated ceasefire agreement in Eastern Ghouta, Idlib and Afrin, the Syrian government and allies are covertly increasing their foothold, transgressing the so-called de-escalation zones set up with the backing of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Similarly, in the ongoing military confrontation in Afrin between Turkish forces and the YPG, Russia has given its tacit approval, standing to gain from a strengthened alliance with Turkey. Much like the negotiations in Astana, Sochi affirms Turkey, as the co-organizer of the Sochi talks, with a more dominant role, weakening the opposition. Ultimately, where the Geneva talks were more critical of the Assad regime, Sochi might be more tempered towards the government.