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No Date Set for Next Round of Astana Talks after Postponement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

Russian-backed peace talks on Syria in Astana have been postponed, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said Thursday without mentioning when the next round of negotiations would be held, as key players wrangle over the future of fragile safe zones in the war-torn country. 

The ministry said it had been told representatives from the three powers -Russia, Turkey and Iran -would meet in their separate capitals in the “upcoming days and weeks”.

“The sponsor countries intend to inform Kazakhstan in the future about the timeframe, level, attendees and agenda they agree for the next round of Astana talks,” ministry spokesman Anuar Zhainakov was quoted as saying by Russia’s RIA Novosti.

There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow, Ankara or Tehran on any new date for talks.

Moscow earlier said that it was calling a fresh round of negotiations in the Kazakh capital for June 12-13 to try to shore up four “de-escalation zones” agreed in May between the three co-sponsors of the talks.

At the last round of negotiations in May attended by Syrian regime and rebel delegations, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara agreed to establish the zones to ease fighting in opposition areas. 

The zones — where aerial bombardments were supposed to stop — have ushered in a marked decline in fighting on the ground, but there remain key outstanding issues to negotiate. 

Despite pledging to agree on definitive boundaries by June 4, the sponsors are still arguing over the outlines and which countries should send in forces to police the safe zones. 

Moscow has spearheaded the Astana talks since the start of the year as it tries to turn its game-changing military intervention on the ground into a negotiated settlement. 

The tetchy negotiations — seen as a complement to broader UN-backed talks in Geneva — have involved armed rebels and regime officials and have focused mainly on military issues.