Monday 16 January 2017

Syrian Rebels To Attend Astana Peace Talks


Syrian rebel groups said Monday they will attend peace talks next week, in a boost to efforts by rivals Turkey and Russia to put an end to the nearly six-year-old conflict.

The talks, beginning on January 23 in the Kazakh capital Astana, are set to build on a nationwide truce that has largely held despite escalating violence across several battlefronts in recent days.

Organised by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran, the meetings are the latest bid to put an end to the brutal war raging in Syria since March 2011.

The powers have backed opposing sides of Syria’s conflict for years but have worked closely in recent weeks to end the bloodshed.

If the Astana meetings are successful, they could bode well for fresh UN-hosted negotiations on the conflict next month in Geneva.

“All the rebel groups are going (to Astana). Everyone has agreed,” said Mohammad Alloush, a leading figure in the Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) rebel group.

“Astana is a process to end the bloodletting by the regime and its allies. We want to end this series of crimes,” Alloush said.

Ahmad al-Othman from the Sultan Murad faction confirmed rebel factions would attend.

Sources from the opposition and the regime said the talks would “probably” be face-to-face.

Several rounds of peace talks held by the United Nations have failed to produce a political solution to the conflict.

The Astana talks will assume a different approach, focusing strictly on military developments ahead of political discussions in Switzerland in February.



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