New round of talks on Syria conflict on Wednesday

New round of talks on Syria conflict on Wednesday

Syria's main foreign-backed opposition group says it seeks face-to-face negotiations with Damascus in the upcoming round of peace talks due to be held in Geneva on February 23. Russian Federation is sending presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Iran is dispatching Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, while Turkey will likely send a Foreign Ministry department head to the Astana talks, according to officials.

A subsequent statement from the foreign ministry said the talks would begin at 0600 GMT on Thursday.

"The opposition factions that took part in the [first] Astana negotiations have been invited to the talks taking place in the Kazakh capital over the next two days", said Liwa Shuhada al-Islam representative Said Naqrash.

A rebel source said there were at least 30 Russian sorties on Tuesday, thwarting new rebel gains on Tuesday.

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"A second worldwide meeting on Syria is due in Astana these days", Zakharova said.

The next round of Astana talks will discuss observance of the ceasefire and stabilisation measures for specific areas and other "practical steps" ahead of the talks in Geneva, Kazakhstan said.

Salim Al-Muslit, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said there could be no role for Al-Assad in the transition, saying "the heavy price paid by the Syrian people" would have been wasted if he remained. The Geneva talks scheduled for February 23 are expected to be wider-ranging and focus on key issues such as the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At a previous meeting in Astana in January, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to serve as the monitors for the cease-fire.

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