Cliché artists report.

There’s nothing like a Mid-East peace conference to bring out a flood of clichés and journalese. With a tip of the hat to the classic New Yorker “cliché artist” interviews, here are questions we asked about the Syrian peace talks that started in Astana, Kazakhstan, and answers we found in a Jan. 24, 2017, story in the New York Times:

Where is Astana? “On the frigid steppe near the Russian border.”
What is the conference showcasing? “Russia’s increasing dominant role.”
The Syrian delegations did what? “Almost immediately began trading harsh words.”
And that led to? “Heated exchange” and “tensions.”
And the tensions did what? “Demonstrated challenges.”
Whom did you interview? “Many displomats and analysts …”
Where did you find them? “Crisscrossing the towering atrium of the Rixos Hotel.”
How about Western diplomats? “They were largely sidelined, huddled in the hotel’s Irish pub.”
What’s the U.S role? “Widely seen as having receded under… Obama.”
How about the future? “Remains uncertain.”
What has Trump done? “Signaled broad approval of Russian leadership…and sent mixed messages.”
And the role of the UN envoy? “Shuttling between delegations, which we holed up in separate rooms.”
Finally, what were Western diplomats doing when they were not in the pub? “Watching warily.”

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