Syrian Talks in Astana Delayed, Delegations Downgraded

Syria peace talks set for Feb. 23: UN

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".

The truce, which was negotiated between Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Damascus government and the Syrian opposition, excludes terrorist groups such as Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

The U.N. envoy to Syria says negotiating a political transition for the war-torn country will be the sole item on the agenda for upcoming talks between the government and opposition in Geneva.

"In theory, it is a complement to a still-live ongoing Geneva process", said Sam Heller, a non-resident fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank.

Ten rebel representatives will be part of a 21-member delegation of the key opposition High Negotiations Committee.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Kazakhstan's foreign minister said the talks would focus on mechanisms to monitor Syria's ceasefire and to hold violators accountable.

The Kazakh government said on Saturday it had invited the government and rebels for February 15-16.

A new Syrian constitution was not discussed at talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on February 16, the head of Syria's government delegation has said.

"We can confirm that letters have been sent today, and also that consultations are continuing", his spokeswoman, Yara Sharif, said yesterday.

Jordan said it would attend the Astana talks as an observer.

The January meeting in Astana saw the three countries agree to a trilateral mechanism for observing and ensuring compliance with a cease-fire which came into effect on December 30. The talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, are meant to pave the way for next week's revival of the Geneva process, which has been on hold since last April.

Rebel backer Turkey has signalled new flexibility on resolving the Syrian conflict but there is little sign the opposition feels the same way.

The Kazakhstan talks are brokered by Russian Federation and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the war and have taken the lead with peace efforts since December.

The first set of talks on Syria that took place in the Central Asian country's capital in January did not result in any significant breakthrough.

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