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Preparations For Syrian Cease-Fire Talks Intensify In Kazakhstan

RFE/RL January 22, 2017

The Russian, Turkish, and Iranian co-hosting delegations to the Syrian truce conference in Kazakhstan have been meeting to draw up a document for potential signing.

Delegates began gathering in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on January 22, one day ahead of the opening of the talks aimed at solidifying a shaky cease-fire between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups.

The United States will be represented at the talks by U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol. The UN special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will also attend.

De Mistura hailed the conference as "a good initiative."

The Syrian opposition is sending a delegation of some 50 members. An opposition source was quoted as telling the Russian news agency Interfax that his delegation was unhappy because the Syrian government delegation was dominated by politicians instead of military representatives as had been agreed.

It was considered unlikely that there would be direct talks between the Syrian opposition and Syrian government representatives in Astana.

The talks come at a time when the Syrian government is in a strong position, having recaptured the city of Aleppo in an offensive backed by Russia.

At the same time, the opposition is fractured after the loss of Aleppo and the deaths of several prominent leaders. Efforts to unite various moderate and extremist factions have not yielded results.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry said the talks were expected to end in the afternoon on January 24, followed by a concluding news conference.

Some 300,000 people have been killed during Syria's six-year civil war and more than half the country's population has been displaced.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, AP, AFP, and Reuters

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/syria-cease-fire-talks- astana-preparations/28249616.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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