Syria peace talks get underway in Kazakhstan

Syria peace talks get underway in Kazakhstan

UN-brokered talks between Assad's representatives and civilian opposition figures broke down early past year as Russian support turned the war in Assad's favor.

"We're sitting on the sidelines of talks meant to be between the Syrian government and the opposition, but the main event is what is happening in the trilateral talks", he told Al Jazeera.

An estimated 400,000 people have been killed and 11 million displaced since the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, according to the United Nations.

Syria's United Nations ambassador and head of the regime delegation Bashar al-Jaafari attends the first session of Syria peace talks at Astana's Rixos President Hotel on January 23, 2017.

A rebel spokesman said the first negotiation session was not held face to face because of the regime's continued bombardment and attacks on an area near Damascus.

Meanwhile, worldwide meeting participants were expected to agree on a document produced during the talks, which are scheduled to end at noon January 24.

Earlier, Osama Abo Zayd, a rebel media representative, said the scope of the negotiations is limited to strengthening the current ceasefire arrangement. "There's a new equation".

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"The US is invited to witness the restoration of Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime, sign off on the death sentence of the pro-Western opposition, and agree to the de-facto carving up of Syria into Russian, Iranian and Turkish occupation zones", he added. A third game-changer could be added to that list: the collapse of US influence in the region under Obama policy. Behind the scenes, in the Turkish capital Ankara, a new Russian-Turkish alliance forged a deal to end the final fight for Syria's second city.

Since the start of Syria's war in 2011, several diplomatic initiatives have stumbled over the future of President Bashar Al-Assad. A leader of Jaysh al-Islam, Mohammed Alloush, said he would head the rebel delegation and work to end the "crimes" of the government and its allies.

"This would be a test of the credibility and seriousness of the participants, whether those who will be sitting at the discussion table or their operators", he said, quoted by state media.

By calling the opposition terrorists, he was not in tune with Russian Federation or Turkey which brokered the conference. The truce excludes extremist groups such as the Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front.

But the rebels backed out of direct talks because of the regime's ongoing bombardment and attacks near Damascus.

But Mr Assad has insisted that rebels lay down their arms in exchange for an amnesty deal, and called for a "comprehensive" political solution to a conflict that has killed more than 310,000 and displaced more than half of Syria's population. From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Kazakhstan has been urging the worldwide community to seek a diplomatic solution, believing that military methods only exacerbate the situation.

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