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Syria Talks in Kazakh Capital Put Off by One Day | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Reporters work in the media center set for Syria peace talks, in Astana, Kazakhstan, January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

The Syria crisis talks held at the Kazakh capital Astana and involving Russia, Iran and Turkey have been put off by one day until Thursday, sources said on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura – who had also been invited and attended the previous Astana meeting in January – said he would not attend the negotiations.

Syrian rebels said on Wednesday in an emailed statement that they would send a group of “technical experts” to the talks to discuss strengthening a ceasefire.

They had threatened this week to boycott the talks, accusing Russia of failing to get Damascus to comply fully with the ceasefire or take any confidence-building steps.

A rebel official who had attended the previous round of Astana talks in January said on Wednesday a small delegation including military and legal representatives would attend to discuss the ceasefire plan put forward last month.

Two sources close to the talks said the rebel delegation had not arrived in Astana in time to start the meetings on
Wednesday, which prompted the delay – announced officially without any explanation.

One of the sources also said the sides hoped that talks on Thursday would produce a joint document. Kazakhstan, Moscow’s close political ally, said last week the negotiations would focus on consolidating the ceasefire.

Delegations of the Damascus regime and the rebels who attended the previous round of Astana talks refused to negotiate directly with each other or sign any documents at the time.

A new round of broader, U.N.-backed peace talks is due to begin in Geneva next week. The main Syrian opposition body said on Wednesday it wanted face-to-face negotiations with the Damascus regime about a political transition at the Geneva talks.

Salim al-Muslit, spokesman of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), also told Reuters the opposition was sticking to its position that Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad can have no role in the transition, saying “the heavy price paid by the Syrian people” would have been wasted if he remained in power.