War is the continuation of diplomacy by military means and its purpose is to ensure that when you finally sit at the negotiating table, you do so in a position of greater strength. At least this is how it was historically. In today's Middle East, things are a little bit different. Now it is time for hybrid wars, a combination of conventional, irregular and cyberwars. Peace talks and diplomatic negotiations are still being conducted in the classical manner. The only thing one may hope is that negotiations bring peace and stability, and not more conflict.
It is true that peace agreements are more lasting when great powers are directly involved in the negotiations. The international system's major powers are always more reliable when it comes to guaranteeing peace, stability and reconstruction. When they do not join in or worse, when they openly oppose a negotiation process, it is more likely that the talks will create more problems than they resolve.
That is why the upcoming talks in Astana are important for the future of Syria. If one really wants to establish peace and stability there, it is only normal to have the Syrian government around the table, along with two regional powers, i.e. Turkey and Iran and of course, Russia, which keeps beefing up its clout in the region. The Syrian issue is about the future of the entire region, so one cannot not involve Iraq and Israel in this process somehow. That means one cannot exclude the United States either. It is obvious that the road map on which the U.S. and Russia are agreeing has a good chance of being respected. So the presence of both Russia and the U.S. in this process is some kind of insurance policy.
We do not know yet, of course, if all the socio-political segments in Syria will be represented in Astana. This is important, because those who participate in the Astana process will have a say on the governance in Syria. Therefore it is important to bring together all the victims of the conflict into the negotiation process.
There are other Middle East negotiations going on outside Astana. A summit was held in France last weekend on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The problem is, the leaders of Palestine and Israel were absent. The U.S. had sent its Secretary of State John Kerry, who is about to leave his office, and Russia sent an ambassador. The level of participation by both great powers is proof enough that they did not like the idea of this summit. It is quite odd, to say the least, to bring together 70 states and NGOs to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - in the absence of the two sides that are actually fighting in this conflict. You cannot even imagine how a future for Palestine and/or Israel may be determined without the Palestinians or the Israelis?
The summit in Paris was more to do with the Obama administration's desire to corner the Netanyahu government before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office than finding a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Maybe the Europeans have imagined that they can play a role in this conflict's resolution, benefiting from the disagreements between the U.S. and Russia. Well, they can continue imagining. As soon as Trump takes his oath of office, he will start backing the current Israeli government no matter what. And the current Israeli government would never talk about the Middle East peace process with the Europeans. That is why the talks in Paris will not bring peace, but only more tension. In the long run, Russia and the U.S. will reach an understanding on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well, while the Europeans will be progressively excluded from the process.