HARD HIT: Free Syrian Army fighters stand in front of buildings damaged during shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo in this file image. Picture: REUTERS
HARD HIT: Free Syrian Army fighters stand in front of buildings damaged during shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo in this file image. Picture: REUTERS

Astana — Representatives from the Syrian government and rebel groups held fresh talks on Thursday with key power brokers Russia, Turkey and Iran, aimed at shoring up a fragile ceasefire.

The meeting is the second time key players Moscow, Ankara and Tehran have brought the warring sides together and comes ahead of a new round of UN-led talks on Syria in Geneva on February 23.

The latest round of talks is expected to focus mostly on bolstering a faltering six-week truce and has been billed as a prelude to broader negotiations in Geneva. The regional brokers met separately for talks with regime and rebel delegates in the Kazakh capital, Astana. It appeared unlikely that the two sides would meet one-on-one, but a plenary session involving all parties was scheduled.

A first set of talks on Syria that took place in Astana in January saw the rebels refuse to talk directly to the regime
and did not result in any significant breakthrough.

Rebel spokesman Yehya al-Aridi said on Wednesday the opposition was sending a "smaller" delegation than the one it sent in January.

The rebels, who initially cast doubt over their participation in the latest meeting, would be led by Mohammad Alloush, a leader in the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam), he confirmed. The Syrian regime is represented in Astana by its ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari.

AFP

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