Russia-backed talks on Syria to be held on 4-5 July in Astana; creation of safe zones likely to be discussed

Moscow: The next round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana has been scheduled for 4-5 July, the Kazakh foreign ministry said on Monday.

UN is in talks with Iran, Russia and Turkey.AFP

Representational Image. AFP

"The participants plan to discuss the situation in Syria, the process of abiding by agreements reached during previous rounds of talks in Astana, including the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria", the Kazakh foreign ministry said in an official statement.

Earlier on Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said the talks would be held on 10 July.

A source in Geneva close to the negotiations confirmed to AFP that the Astana talks would take place on 4-5 July but that the Geneva talks would start on 10 July.

Lavrov told reporters in Beijing that the UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura — who announced the date for the Geneva round on Saturday would take part in the Russian-backed talks.

A new round of Astana talks had been scheduled for June but was indefinitely postponed as key players wrangled over the future of fragile safe zones agreed for Syria in May.

Russia and Iran, which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the war, and Turkey, a supporter of rebel forces, signed an agreement on 4 May on setting up four safe zones.

Lavrov today said these zones "are one of the possible options to move forward together".

Moscow has spearheaded the Astana talks since the start of the year as it tries to turn its game-changing military intervention on the ground into a negotiated settlement.

The tense negotiations — seen as a complement to the broader UN-backed talks in Geneva — have involved armed rebels and government officials and have focused mainly on military issues.

The last Geneva talks ended on 19 May after four days without making any real progress.

The six-year Syrian conflict has killed more than 320,000 people and seen nearly two thirds of Syrians forced from their homes.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2017 10:17 AM

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