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Iran Press TV

Syria peace talks in Astana postponed to mid-September: Kazakhstan

Iran Press TV

Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:35PM

The next round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana may be held in mid-September, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry says.

In a Tuesday Facebook post, the ministry said the timing of the talks would be set at a meeting in late August between experts from Russia, Turkey and Iran and "provisionally, we could be talking about mid-September."

The statement cited Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov as saying that the date change was based on "information received from Russia."

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the expert-level meeting would be held "by the end of the month or right at the start of September," without elaborating on a precise date for the full Astana talks.

Russia had previously been planning to hold the next round of Astana talks in late August.

Astana has hosted five rounds of peace talks for Syria since January. Russia, Iran, and Turkey serve as guarantor states in the peace process. The negotiations are aimed at bringing an end to the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which began in March 2011.

The Astana talks have so far resulted in an agreement on four de-escalation zones across Syria.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, three of the enclaves had been created to date, in the country's sprawling central province of Homs, in the Eastern Ghouta area of the southern Rif Dimashq Province, and a southwestern militant-controlled stretch along the border with Jordan.

The upcoming talks, he said, aim to facilitate the creation of the fourth zone, in the western Syrian Idlib Province, where significant concentrations of Takfiri terrorists, most notably from al-Nusra Front, are operating.

The successful materialization of that prospect would "give civilians an opportunity to return to peaceful life" in Idlib, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

The talks in Astana have been going on in tandem with another series of talks, held in Geneva and brokered by the UN.

When the first round of the Astana talks was organized, the Geneva talks had been stalled for months. The talks in the Kazakh capital then provided momentum for the UN-brokered talks, helping revive them.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has sought to unify the opposition for a substantive round of negotiations in October, after hosting seven rounds of largely unsuccessful talks in Geneva.

Opposition fails to unify

Meanwhile, a meeting between so-called Syrian opposition groups in Riyadh ended in stalemate on Tuesday over the future role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The talks between the Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and delegations from two other camps, the so-called Cairo and Moscow groupings, started in Riyadh on Monday in an attempt to achieve a joint negotiating strategy.

"The representatives of the Moscow grouping refused to recognize any text that referred to the Syrian people's demand for the departure of Bashar al-Assad," said Ahmed Ramadan of the HNC.

"There was an important level of understanding between HNC and the Cairo grouping, but the stalemate with Moscow group delegates hampered efforts to bring representatives... into a single negotiating delegation," he said.

The Moscow group did not provide any immediate comments regarding the issue.

The Moscow and Cairo camps do not agree with HNC's position that Assad should be ousted.

Political observers say the opposition is not capable of pressuring the Syrian government to make concessions in the course of the peace talks due to the heavy losses they have suffered in the Syria conflict.

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