Start of Syria talks in Astana delayed by one day

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Kazakhstan's foreign ministry announced earlier in the day that Syrian government officials and armed rebels are being invited to peace talks to be held next week in its capital Astana.

"The negotiations have been moved to 16 February for technical reasons", a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP by telephone without elaboration. The meeting must have been held in a closed format.

"A second worldwide meeting on Syria is due in Astana these days", Zakharova said.

Delegations of the Damascus government and the rebels who attended the previous round of Astana talks refused to negotiate directly with each other or sign any documents at the time.

The Riyadh-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is intentionally trying to impede the formation of a single Syrian opposition delegation for the upcoming Geneva talks to ruin intra-Syrian negotiations, a Syrian opposition figure told Sputnik Wednesday.

The main Syrian opposition body said on Wednesday it wanted face-to-face negotiations with the Damascus government about a political transition at the Geneva talks.

De Mistura said he would not participate personally in the latest Astana meeting but that his office would be represented by a "technical team".

Moscow has also invited the USA to participate in the talks as observer but the State Department has yet to confirm Washington's participation.

On February 6, Astana hosted the first meeting of the joint group for monitoring ceasefire in Syria with experts from Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United Nations and Jordan taking part.

Russian Federation and Iran, close allies of President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, previously pledged to enforce the cease-fire, but both sides have alleged repeated violations.

Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has sought to revive diplomacy since its air force helped to defeat rebels in Aleppo in December, the Syrian leader's biggest victory to date.

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