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Syrian rebels receive last-minute invitation to Astana talks

Syrian rebels are due to take part in Astana talks [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2017

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Syria’s armed rebel groups have been invited to the Astana talks due to be held this week, a rebel source told The New Arab on Tuesday.

Syria’s armed rebel groups have been invited to the Astana talks due to be held in the Kazakh capital on 15 and 16 February, a rebel source told The New Arab on Tuesday.

“The opposition factions that took part in the [first] Astana negotiations have been invited to the talks taking place in the Kazakh capital over the next two days,” said Liwa Shuhada al-Islam representative Said Naqrash.

“The [armed] factions have chosen a delegation of five people headed by Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff, brigadier general Ahmed Berry,” Naqrash told The New Arab.

Moscow’s state-owned Russia Today reported on Tuesday that the delegations of Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the United Nations had arrived in Astana, while the Turkish and Syrian rebel delegations had yet to arrive in the Kazakh capital.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister said the talks would focus on mechanisms to monitor Syria’s ceasefire and to hold violators accountable.

The Astana talks are being brokered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey, which are all key players in the conflict.

The latest round follows a preliminary meeting last month that ended without a breakthrough in the nearly six-year conflict, in which more than 310,000 people have died.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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