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Syria’s HNC opposition group supports peace talks in Astana

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This January 12, 2017 photo shows destruction left behind following clashes in the Syrian town of Binnish, on the outskirts of Idlib. (Photo by AFP)

Syria’s main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), has expressed its support for an upcoming round of peace talks between militants and the Syrian government in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

The HNC said in a statement on Saturday that it would back the participation of militants in planned peace talks brokered by Russia and Turkey, which will be held later this month.

“Concerning the forthcoming meeting in Astana, the [High Negotiations] Committee stresses its support to the military delegation” the HNC statement said after a two-day meeting in Riyadh, expressing hope that the talks would "establish a phase of confidence” in peace talks between the government and the opposition.

The HNC, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries in the Middle East and the West, has previously attended the UN-backed talks with Damascus representatives in Geneva.

The umbrella opposition group said talks in Astana could pave the way for the resumption of UN-backed negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva next month. Its statement said the HNC “appreciates efforts” to make the talks fruitful.

It is not yet clear which groups have been invited to attend the talks in Kazakhstan.

Russia, Turkey to invite US to Syria talks

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Ankara and Moscow have decided to invite Washington in the January 23 talks in Astana.

Cavusoglu said, however, that Turkey was still opposed to the participation of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the negotiations. 

Russia and Turkey have managed to broker a nationwide ceasefire in Syria in December 2016, when Syrian pro-government forces took full control of the northern city of Aleppo from militants. The two, who support the opposing sides of the conflict in Syria, have maintained close contacts in recent weeks to revive the stalled peace process in the Arab country.

Many hope the talks in Astana could put an end to nearly six years of devastating militancy in Syria which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. 

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