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Eighth round of Syria peace talks starts in Kazakh capital

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)
A general view taken on December 21, 2017 shows Astana’s Rixos President Hotel, the venue for Syria peace talks. (Photo by AFP)

The eighth round of Syria peace talks mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey, has kicked off in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana with the aim of finding a diplomatic solution to the six-year conflict in the Arab country.

Delegations from Russia, Iran and Turkey, Syrian government representatives as well as a 20-member opposition team started two days of negotiations in Astana on Thursday, AFP reported.

According to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will also attend the second day of the talks on Friday. De Mistura is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Thursday.

The new round of Astana talks will focus on buffer zones, humanitarian aid and freeing prisoners, the ministry said.

Last week, the eighth round of another parallel peace process was held in Geneva between Syria’s warring sides. Those UN-sponsored talks, however, fell through with no tangible progress.

Previous rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the UN over the past five years have failed to achieve results, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should cede power.

However, the talks in Astana, which began in January, have comparably resulted in significant achievements, including ceasefires and de-escalation zones that have reduced fighting in Syria.

Delegations of Russia, Iran and Turkey hold talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital city of Astana on January 23, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Iran and Russia are allies of the Syrian government, while Turkey supports several anti-Damascus armed groups.

The latest round of the talks was held late October, with the three states agreeing on a Russian initiative for holding a congress with the participation of Syria’s conflicting sides in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The fourth round of the Astana discussions in May also resulted in an agreement on four de-escalation zones across Syria.

The Astana process has also helped strengthen a countrywide ceasefire, which took in December 2016 after Aleppo was recaptured by government forces in a major victory against militants.

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