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New talks seek to end Syria's war after almost six years

16 February 2017

A new round of talks on Syria conflict led by Russia, Turkey and Iran is taking place in Kazak capital, Astana on Wednesday. Russian Federation is sending presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Iran is dispatching Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, while Turkey will likely send a Foreign Ministry department head to the Astana talks, according to officials.

The global meeting began on January 23 with the participation of a number of delegations, including armed opposition, Damascus, Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

A new round of UN-backed peace talks is due to begin in Geneva next week.

The opposition fighters there are drawn from both Free Syrian Army groups and members of a newly formed alliance - Tahrir al-Sham - spearheaded by a faction that was once al-Qaeda's official affiliate.

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Delegations of the Damascus government and the rebels attended the previous round of talks in Astana in January but refused to negotiate directly with each other or sign any documents. Jordan will also be represented by a "high-level delegation", government spokesman Mohamed Momani said.

Moscow has invited the USA to participate as an observer but the State Department has yet to confirm Washington will be involved.

They follow a meeting in Astana last month that ended without a breakthrough in the almost six-year conflict, in which more than 310,000 people have died. The Geneva talks scheduled for February 23 are expected to be wider-ranging and focus on key issues such as the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's rebels won't begin negotiating a political settlement with the government until measures are taken to bolster a flagging cease-fire and address urgent humanitarian concerns, the head of the opposition delegation to planned talks in Kazakhstan told The Associated Press today.

New talks seek to end Syria's war after almost six years