5th round of Syria talks begin in Astana


Kazakhstan’s capital has started hosting a fifth round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition, with Iran, Russia, and Turkey as mediators.

The latest round started out in Astana on Tuesday with a trilateral discussion among the moderators.

Anuar Zhainakov, the press-secretary at Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed to AFP that delegates from the Syrian government and anti-Damascus militant groups had earlier arrived in Astana.

The talks will last two days and seek to build up on the results of the previous round in May, which saw the participants agreeing to create four de-escalation zones in the violence-battered Arab country.

More than 2.5 million people are believed to be living in the general area of the four zones.

The Syrian army unilaterally announced a halt to fighting until midnight July 6 in one of the zones that spans the southern provinces of Dara’a, Quneitra, and Sweida.

The rest of the areas cover the northwestern province of Idlib, parts of the central province of Homs, and the militant-controlled Eastern Ghouta Province near Damascus.

Upon full realization, the plan is expected to see the warring sides halting hostilities against one another for six months.

At Damascus’ request, Iran has been providing military advisory support to the Syrian military in its counterterrorism operations. Russia has been carrying out an aerial campaign in Syria, similarly in coordination with Damascus, since September 2015 to further boost the military’s anti-terror fight.

Turkey, however, has been siding with the militants over the course of the militancy in Syria, which began in 2011.

The three mediators helped bring about a nationwide ceasefire in Syria late last year.

The Astana talks first started in January.