Syrian opposition to boycott Astana over Russian 'breaches'

Several new rounds of talks are due to take place in Geneva and Astana as the Syrian civil war approaches the end of its sixth year.

A plenary session involving Russia, Turkey, and Iran as well as delegations from the Syrian government and opposition is scheduled to begin later on February 16, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry official said at a press briefing in Astana.

The Astana talks are to be followed by a new round of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva on February 20.

While Turkey backs rebels in the six-year-long war, Russian Federation and Iran back al-Assad.

Jaberi Ansari also held talks with Bashar Jaafari, Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations and head of the Syrian delegation in the Astana talks, Tuesday night.

The HNC has said it wants to have a face-to-face meeting with the regime, something that did not happen last month in Astana.

A truce deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December is faltering across Syria, with clashes reported in the southern city of Daraa and bombardment in the provinces of Aleppo and Hama.

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"There is an attack by eight factions on Daraa since four days and they... have unleashed thousands of shells at innocent civilians" in the area, he said.

The efforts made by Iran, Syria and Turkey to mediate the Astana talks was no replacement for the previous efforts by the global community to help end the Syria crisis, but rather serve as a supplementary initiative, he noted.

In addition, U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has been invited in his capacity as mediator of the Geneva peace talks, and the US has been invited to participate as an observer.

A Syrian source close to the government said the discussions in Astana would be "purely military".

The opposition insists he must step aside, but his government says his future is not a topic for negotiations.

The two sides are about 5 kilometers (3 miles) apart.

"If the regime disciplines itself, then we are committed to the cease-fire", al-Rais told the AP. Both sides are trying to expel the Islamic State group from the region and claim it for themselves. The figure could not be independently confirmed.

  • Adam Floyd