Syria talks officially kick off in Astana



A third round of talks aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria has officially gotten underway in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.
Russia’s Sputnik news agency said the talks kicked off with a meeting between the United Nations (UN) and Russian delegations on Tuesday.
The Astana talks, which have been going on in parallel with UN-brokered talks in the Swiss city of Geneva, have been an initiative of guarantor states Iran, Russia, and Turkey.
The first round of the talks took place on January 23-24 and the second on February 15-16. The Syrian government and the country’s opposition comprise the main sides to the talks, while Iran, Russia, and Turkey mediate the process.
Tehran and Moscow are allied with Damascus, whereas Turkey acts on behalf of the Syrian opposition.
Delegations started arriving for the negotiations in Astana on Monday. The Iranian delegation is headed by Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs.
The armed opposition in Syria has said it will not be participating in the talks because of what it says is Russia’s failure to halt its airstrikes in support of the Syrian government and the Syrian army’s alleged violations of a ceasefire.
Russia has been carrying out an aerial campaign in Syria on a request from Damascus since September 2015. Together with Iran and Turkey, Russia facilitated a nationwide ceasefire in the Arab country late last year.—Agencies

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