Rebels arrive for talks with regime

Russian Federation and Turkey invited U.S. President Donald Trump to send a delegation to the talks some days before he took office.

Delegations form the Syrian government and the opposition will start the negotiations in Astana on Monday with representatives from Iran, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations in attendance. But, citing demands of the presidential transition, the U.S. State Department said its Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol would attend.

Russian Federation and Iran are divided over U.S. participation in planned Syria peace talks, a Moscow official said on Saturday, hinting at a rare public spat between the allies.

Delegations of six negotiating parties are confirmed to attend Astana talks on Syria as the USA ambassador will be present as an observer after Iran opposed Washington's participation.

The regime's military upper hand could bode well for Assad's future, as US demands for his ouster drift further from the headlines.

Syrian UN ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, who is heading the government delegation, said on Sunday that the main points on the agenda included strengthening ceasefire lines and reaching common ground on fighting terrorism, the state-owned Sana news agency reported.

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Another round of talks, led by the United Nations, is set to begin February 8 in Geneva, and U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura is in Astana.

The United States has backed the rebels.

He also noted that there had been no negotiations to date between Syrian and Turkish governments regarding the conflict. The statement also provisioned Astana session where Syrian government and opposition would sit in a dialogue on national unity government.

Astana meeting is slated to find a way out of the stalemate in the peace talks which produced nothing in Geneva 7 months ago as opposition groups, supported by Saudi Arabia, and hostile to Assad government, undermined the meeting.

Assad summarized that "terrorist groups", referring to rebels, need to disarm. "And, it gives some optimism to observers, to people living first of all in Syria, that it might be a very important step forward to resolving this long-term civil war in Syria".

  • Adam Floyd