Rabat - Peace talks aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict have begun Monday in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
Rabat – Peace talks aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict have begun Monday in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
The talks are brokered by Russia and Iran, which back the Syrian government, and Turkey which supports the rebels.
For the first time, the opposition delegation has been formed exclusively of representatives of armed groups.
The last round of talks between the opposition and the government, which were brokered by the UN, were suspended in early 2016.
Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry says it expects the talks to be finished by Tuesday.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and 11 million displaced in almost six years of conflict.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura is attending the talks, and the US is being represented by its ambassador to Kazakhstan.
The opposition’s stinging defeat in the northern city of Aleppo in December robbed them of their last major urban stronghold to challenge President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Bashar al-Jaafari, who heads the Syrian government delegation, said earlier that the agenda would focus on strengthening a ceasefire that has largely held since last month.
“This would be a test of the credibility and seriousness of the participants, whether those who will be sitting at the discussion table or their operators,” he said, quoted by state media.
Russia and Turkey brokered the ceasefire on 30 December. It excludes IS and the rival jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, known as al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda in July.
The main umbrella group representing Syria’s political and armed opposition factions, the High Negotiations Committee, says it considers the Astana talks a “preliminary step for the next round” of negotiations on a political settlement in Geneva.
The Syrian conflict began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war.