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Kazakhstan Invites Syrian Regime, Rebels to Astana Meetings | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman walks past debris along a street in Aleppo’s Belleramoun Industrial Zone, Syria February 2, 2017. Picture taken February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Delegations from the Syrian regime and rebels along with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura have been invited to attend meetings on the Syria crisis in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on February 15-16, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

According to the ministry, the meetings will tackle the implementation of the ceasefire in Syria, measures to stabilize situation in particular areas, adoption of rules for a joint operational group, and agreeing further measures to consolidate the ceasefire regime.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition said it would announce on Saturday its delegates for the next round of U.N.-based peace talks in Geneva planned for later this month.

The choice of opposition delegates has been subject to disagreement and the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said it would choose the opposition delegates if they could not agree, “to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible.”

The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Syria’s main opposition body which includes political and armed groups, has criticized Mistura’s comment as “unacceptable”.

HNC spokesman Salim al-Muslit told Arabic news channel Arabiya al-Hadath on Saturday that following meetings in Riyadh, Syrian opposition officials would present the 20-member delegation they have chosen to attend the talks.

The HNC represented the opposition in peace talks last year, but was not invited to the Kazakh capital Astana, where indirect talks between government and rebel delegates were held last month.

The next round of United Nations-sponsored talks on the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year, have been scheduled for Feb. 20.

Muslit said the opposition delegation would bring together various groups, which, as well as the HNC would include rebel factions that took part in Astana negotiations. It will also include Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian representatives, he said, but did not elaborate.

“It is a military political delegation and it represents everyone,” Muslit said. “Each component will nominate the person it finds suitable.”

Twenty legal advisors will accompany the negotiators to Geneva, he added.