On 30 October 2015, the first round of peace talks on Syria with the foreign ministers of 20 participating countries: the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and other countries. Ministers agreed that the Syrian government and the opposition should start political talks.   The second round of the Viennese talks, in mid-November, resulted in an agreement on the need to bring together representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition for formal negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations, with a deadline of 1 January 2016.  However, the task would be dangerous and it seems unlikely that a sufficient number of troops in a peacekeeping role could be deployed without an appropriate implementation mechanism and prior assurance from all sides. It appears that the Astana agreement of 4 May does not have a detailed structure to enforce its provisions and resolve conflicting claims or interpretations. By May 18, a joint working group of the three guarantee nations will be formed, but it will leave two weeks of brewing problems, and details are scarce on how this would work in practice. « As guarantors – Turkey, Iran, Russia – we will do everything in our power to make this work, » Putin said after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian city of Sochi. For his part, Erdogan boasted that the agreement would solve half of the Syrian conflict and that he saw the other half as Turkey`s problem with the Kurds. In addition, the Syrian government has said that it will respect the agreement, but that it will continue to fight « terrorism » wherever it exists. Since Russia`s first involvement in talks with Turkey, Ankara has complained that Russia has failed to comply with the agreements reached by continuing its airstrikes on opposition-held areas in support of the Syrian regime.
Both Russia and Turkey – but less Iran – have persevered in the attempt to involve the United States in the Astana process. The United States abstained, both out of disillusionment with Russia`s failure not to hold assad back in previous ceasefire attempts, and to protest Moscow`s violation of a U.S.-Russian chemical weapons agreement in Syria – but also because the Americans are not convinced of the chances of success of the Astana trail. However, the Russians seem to be hoping that the new de-escalation zones could address President Donald Trump, whose policy toward Syria involves both the desire to reduce the U.S. confrontation with assad and the creation of a kind of safe zone where refugees can be repatriated.