Fresh Syria talks set for July 10 in Astana

Next round of Russian-backed Syria talks in Kazakhstan’s capital will coincide with UN-sponsored talks in Geneva.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Lavrov said the de-escalation zones 'are one of the possible options to move forward together' [Reuters]

The foreign minister of Russia has announced that the next round of Syria talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be held on July 10.

The meeting is set to coincide with a fresh round of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks that will also begin in Geneva, Switzerland, the same day.

“The latest meeting of participants will take place in Astana on July 10,” Sergey Lavrov was quoted by the Russian foreign ministry website as saying on Monday in Beijing.

He said Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy on Syria, will take part in the Russian-backed talks.

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De Mistura announced the date for the Geneva round on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear whether the talks in Geneva and Astana would be held simultaneously or at different times.

“The subject is currently being discussed,” a spokesman for De Mistura told AFP news agency in Geneva. 

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Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, simply confirmed to AFP that the date of July 10 had been approved.

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

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

Lavrov on Monday said the de-escalation zones “are one of the possible options to move forward together”.

Russia has been spearheading the Astana talks since the start of the year as it tries to turn its military intervention on the ground into a negotiated settlement.

The negotiations – seen as a complement to the broader UN-backed talks in Geneva – have involved armed anti-Assad groups and government officials and have focused mainly on military issues.

The last Geneva talks ended on May 19 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.

Source: AFP