Planned peace talks in Kazakh capital to enforce cessation of hostilities: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

January 19, 2017 7:30 pm

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stressed that the upcoming peace talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana next week will focus on enforcing a cessation of hostilities across the Arab country.
“I believe that they will focus, in the beginning, and will prioritize, as we see it, reaching a ceasefire,” the Syrian president told Japanese television channel TBS in a recent interview according to excerpts released by his office.
He added that a lasting ceasefire will allow aid access to the areas besieged by foreign-backed Takfiri militant groups.
“This will be to protect people’s lives and allow humanitarian aid to reach various areas in ,” he said.
The remarks by the Syrian president come as a new round of peace talks, to be mediated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, is to be held in Astana next week while a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, brokered by Moscow and Ankara and endorsed by the UN Security Council in late December, is largely holding across the Arab country.  
The Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist groups are excluded from the ceasefire and the talks between representatives from the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.
The Syrian government’s delegation in the Astana talks will be led by Syrian diplomat and permanent representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Ja’afari. 
The foreign-sponsored militant groups will be represented by Mohammad Alloush, the head of the political office of the so-called Jaish al-Islam militant group. Their delegation will also include some 20 other people.
The US has not been involved in the latest diplomacy on the Syrian conflict.
The peace negotiations in Astana come ahead of the next round of UN-brokered political negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva on February 8.
UN envoy for Syria to attend Astana talks
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will attend the Astana talks, the UN spokesman said on Thursday.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, gestures during a press conference on January 12, 2017 at the United Nations offices in Geneva. (Photo by AFP)

Stephane Dujarric said that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked De Mistura to attend the talks “in light of the complexity and importance of the issues likely to be raised in Astana, and of the senior level at which the conveners of the meeting will be represented.”
The UN chief “is looking forward to the Astana meeting being a positive step, ahead of the resumption of intra-Syria negotiations in Geneva,” Dujarric added.
Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy over the past six years. According to estimates by De Mistura, 400,000 people have been so far killed in the country’s crisis.
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