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Peace talks between Syrian government, rebels begin in Astana

By Ians

Astana, Jan 23: The peace talks between the Syrian government and armed rebel forces began on Monday in the Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

The talks between President Bashar Al Assad and representatives of the armed factions opposed to his regime started 40 minutes later than scheduled.

File photo of devastation in Aleppo, Syria, due to civil war between the regime and the rebels.

Osama Abu Zeid, a representative of the Free Syrian Army rebel delegation attending the talks, told Efe news that the conversations would be conducted indirectly and behind closed doors.

Zeid said Russia and Turkey had "reached that decision on Monday".

The vice-president of the Syrian National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition political group, Abdul Hakim Bashar, told Efe news that the opposition delegation was "not against direct talks with a UN mediator or the two guarantor countries, Russia and Turkey."

Russia's special envoy Alexander Lavrentiev was optimistic about the outcome of the talks in Astana.

"There is no simple solution to the conflict, but we spare no effort to try to bring the parties' positions closer to the Syrian conflict, that is to say, the government and armed opposition groups," said Lavrentiev, who heads the Russian delegation at the talks.

An Iranian delegation, headed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab Affairs Hossein Ansari, and the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, would also participate in the two-day closed-door talks.

De Mistura thanked President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev for hosting the discussions.

The Syrian civil war, which is heading into its sixth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee the Middle Eastern nation.


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