Start of Syria talks in Kazakh capital Astana delayed one day

UN-sponsored Syria peace talks from 23 Feb UN Syria envoy

The first round of Astana talks on Syrian crisis settlement brought together the representatives of the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups on January 23-24.

De Mistura's office announced yesterday that he has sent out letters of invitation for the Geneva talks, now set to begin on February 23, with initial consultations taking place on February 20.

Rebel spokesman Yehya al-Aridi told AFP Wednesday the opposition was sending a a "smaller" delegation than the one it sent for the talks last month.

Turkey has sent a lower-level delegation to the talks, compared with the previous round, because some senior diplomats were accompanying President Tayyip Erdogan on a foreign visit, Lavrentiev said.

"Meetings have already begun, including with the participation of the armed opposition", he said.

The focus of the talks in Astana is a partial cease-fire that went into effect at the end of December.

He accused Turkey of continuing to facilitate the entry of "tens of thousands of mercenaries" to Syria, and said the meeting ended without a final statement because of the late arrival of the Turkish delegation and the Syrian opposition delegates.

Russian Federation has sent presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentiev to the event while Iran dispatched deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari. The date of the meeting in Ankara was not specified.

United Nations envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura said he would not participate personally in Thursday's meeting but that his office would be represented by a "technical team".

In Damascus, Assad told French media on Thursday that his goal was to retake "every inch of Syrian territory".

"We look forward to having Astana track continued and be successful to the effect of serving the hopes and aspirations of the Syrian people in having security and safety restored all over Syria", Ja'afari said.

According to him, negotiations within this round are very intensive.

Waer is the last remaining opposition stronghold in the central province of Homs. "We will try to reach agreement on these issues by tomorrow".

"We want the bloodshed in Syria to stop".

The US and Russian Federation already agreed in 2015 to create a ground communication link.

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