Start of Syria talks in Kazakh capital delayed one day

Posted February 17, 2017

All members of Turkish and Syrian armed opposition delegations have arrived in Astana for Syria peace talks.

The aim of the Astana talks is said to be to strengthen the ceasefire that Russian Federation and Turkey brokered at the end of a year ago.

"Meetings have already begun, including with the participation of the armed opposition", he said.

A Syrian source close to the government said the discussions in Astana would be "purely military".

The focus of the talks in Astana is a partial cease-fire that went into effect at the end of December.

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Sam Heller from The Century Foundation said about the talks: "In theory, it is a complement to a still-live ongoing Geneva process".

A first set of talks on Syria that took place in Astana in January saw the rebels refuse to talk directly to the regime and did not result in any significant breakthrough.

Ten rebel representatives will be part of a 21-member delegation of the key opposition High Negotiations Committee.

A convoy set to deliver aid to the besieged Syrian area of Waer should be cleared by Damascus as a "goodwill" gesture ahead of peace talks in Geneva next week, the United Nations said on Thursday.

But both denied being represented, and it remains unclear if they will seek to attend in separate delegations.

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Russia's Special Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev told reporters after the meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana: "This common group will ensure and monitor the truce in particular".

At least four rebel groups told AFP they had not yet received an invitation to the meeting, and several cast doubt on whether they would attend if invited.

"We can confirm that [invitations] letters have been sent, and also that consultations are continuing", she added.

The opposition-run monitoring group says government forces have responded with a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes, destroying at least one field hospital in the contested provincial capital.

Turkey has expressed its flexibility on the issues, but the opposition is much more reluctant to be flexible.

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The Kazakhstan talks are brokered by Russian Federation and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the war and have taken the lead with peace efforts since December.