Astana invites Syrian rebels, government to talks next week
ASTANA - Kazakhstan's foreign ministry announced Saturday that Syrian government officials and armed rebels are being invited to peace talks to be held next week in its capital Astana.
"It is planned to hold the latest high-level meeting within the Astana process on resolving the situation in Syria on February 15 and 16," the ministry said in a statement.
It added that those invited include "the Syrian government" and "representatives of the Syrian armed opposition," as well as UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and US observers.
The talks are being brokered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, which are all key players in the conflict.
They follow a meeting in Astana last month that ended without a breakthrough in the nearly six-year conflict, in which more than 310,000 people have died.
Those talks were expected to see the first face-to-face negotiations between the regime and the armed opposition since the conflict erupted in 2011.
The rebels refused to meet directly. However, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed that the rebels should take part in UN-led peace talks opening in Geneva on February 20.
The next round of Astana talks will discuss observance of the ceasefire and stabilisation measures for specific areas and other "practical steps" ahead of the talks in Geneva, Kazakhstan said.