Delegations from the Syrian government and the opposition have met in Kazakhstan’s capital to discuss the situation of the rebel-controlled province of Idlib where three million Syrian refugees have taken shelter.
The two-day talks in Nur-Sultan come after three months of relentless bombing by the government and pro-government forces that has killed hundreds of civilians in the province.
The Astana talks [named after the previous name of the Kazakh capital] are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran. But Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as the UN, are attending as observers.
Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan host millions of Syrian refugees.
In a press conference held in Istanbul on Wednesday, Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Toma said there was progress in the formation of the constitutional committee which is supposed to write a new democratic constitution for Syria.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Nur-Sultan, said the Syrian opposition appeared to be taking a hard line against the regime by refusing to make any concessions or sign any agreement during the talks unless the regime agreed to a full ceasefire in Idlib.
While political manoeuverings and stalemates keep hindering a final agreement between the parties, “we keep going back to this awful onslaught on the civilians of Idlib which has caused so many people to die”, he added.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is establishing an inquiry into a series of attacks on UN-supported facilities, including hospitals in Idlib province, his spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.
The creation of the UN inquiry board follows a letter from 10 members of the Security Council requesting Guterres launch the probe into Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes on hospitals in Idlib.
Since it started in 2011, Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.
The Syrian government has regained control of the majority of the country since the Russian military intervened in 2015, backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government.