21:37 GMT18 January 2021
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    Syrian Peace Talks in Astana (173)
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    The talks between the Syrian and armed opposition groups underway in the Kazakh capital should serve as an important step in the crisis settlement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — This is the first time, when Damascus and the armed opposition sit together at the negotiating table since the start of the conflict in the Arab country. Kazakh side expects the meeting to last through Tuesday.

    "In Syria, we both believe that the meeting between the Syrian government and armed opposition that opened today in Astana should be an important step toward the settlement of the nearly six-year crisis," Lavrov said alongside his Hungarian counterpart.

    Moscow welcomes the launch of the first direct talks between the armed Syrian opposition and Damascus in Kazakhstan despite efforts to prevent them, Lavrov said.

    "We actively promoted these [December 29 ceasefire] agreements together with our Turkish colleagues with the support of the Iranians, and we are pleased that the talks opened today, in spite of… attempts to interfere with this process."

    Russia's focus in Astana is to engage Syrian armed opposition groups, but political groups are not excluded from the process, he said.

    "We are not trying to exclude the political opposition from the process, but proceed from the fact that Astana is intended to formalize an agreement on the full participation of military formations in this process. That is now the main thing," Lavrov said.

    Lavrov noted that there were attempts to "essentially replace the armed delegation of Syrian opposition with political opposition among the emigre circles."

    The upcoming rounds of talks between the Syrian government and opposition, including the February 8 talks in Geneva, should be held with every opposition factions without exception, he said.

    "The subsequent rounds of intra-Syrian negotiations, including those scheduled in Geneva, will of course focus on the government's talks with all opposition groups without exception," Lavrov said.

    He added the military group currently attending talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana to the political opposition platforms established in Riyadh, Moscow and Cairo.

    "This will fully comply with the UN Security Council resolutions which require a fully inclusive intra-Syrian process that should include both the government and the entire spectrum of the opposition," Lavrov.

    The Syrian government and the armed opposition are negotiating behind the closed doors. Damascus delegation is set to speak first, followed by the armed opposition, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the United States and the United Nations.

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    Syrian Peace Talks in Astana (173)

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    Sergei Lavrov, Syria, Russia, Astana
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