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Syria peace talks in Astana end of October – sources
October 22, 2017, 10:56 am

The head of the Syrian government delegation to the Astana talks is Bashar Jaafari (C) seen here at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 21, 2016 [Xinhua]

The governments of Kazakhstan and Russia have announced that the seventh round of Syria peace talks will be held in the Kazakh capital Astana on October 30.

The talks will focus on hostage release and prisoner exchange as well as establishing a mechanism to search for missing persons.

The previous six rounds of Syria peace talks have been sponsored by Iran, Russia and Turkey and have succeeded in implementing safe regions and de-escalation zones in Syria.

The Memorandum of De-Escalation signed in Astana, Kazakhstan in May 2017, for example, established four safe zones which included the Idlib province and some neighboring territories (Latakia, Hama and Aleppo) to the north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in southern Syria (Daraa and Quneitra).

The Memorandum also calls for the implementation of a ceasefire and immediate unfettered aid delivery to the hardest hit areas.

The sixth round of talks focused on strengthening the de-escalation zones and agreeing on which bodies would monitor the implementation of the zone agreements.

While the Astana peace process is separate from the more inclusive UN-sponsored peace negotiations in Geneva, they have nonetheless won the support of UN agencies including UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who has attended a number of sessions.

The US has been routinely invited to the Astana talks, but has only been represented by low-level delegations.

Syrian opposition groups are participating in the talks under an umbrella coalition delegation. Groups such as Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are considered terrorist organizations by Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria and therefore not only excluded from the talks but from the current ceasefire as well.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies