The next five days are crucial. Assad is still allowed to strike al-Qaida-linked fighters during this time. But if Assad refrains from targeting other rebel groups, and the U.S. and Russia exercise their firepower judiciously, the conditions on the ground could allow for talks that Russia's Foreign Ministry says could resume as early as next month.
Every previous peace effort has foundered over the insistence by the Syrian opposition, backed by much of the world, that Assad must go — and yet no party has been willing or able to do what it takes to remove him. There are signs, however, that the demand is looser now.
Also read: Russia's defeat raises World Cup alarm bells