Syrian opposition to boycott Astana over Russian 'breaches'

Astana: The start of Syrian crisis talks has been delayed by a day after the late arrival of Syrian rebel negotiators, who have made a decision to only send a group of technical experts after threatening to boycott the meeting, sources and the delegation said.

But some of Syria's rebels say they won't begin negotiating a political settlement with the government until measures are taken to bolster a flagging cease-fire and address urgent humanitarian concerns.

Last month, talks were held in Astana between Turkey, Russia, Iran and Syria.

He thinks that the main outcome of the day is that the parties discussed implementation of the ceasefire, as unlike in Geneva, Astana process focuses more on practical issues.

The delegate said it was important to stay on the "right path" in the talks, which began in the Kazakh capital on Thursday, a day later than originally planned after the late arrival of Syrian rebel negotiators.

The next round of Syria peace talks in Geneva is expected to begin next week, on February 23, the United Nations announced Monday.

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The first round of the discussions, which was similarly mediated by Tehran, Moscow and Ankara, took place in January and brought together representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups for the first time during almost six years of conflict.

The announcement of the prisoner swap came after Assad dismissed a report released last week by Amnesty International accusing the Syrian authorities of hanging up to 13,000 people over five years in a government prison.

Russia's Special Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev told reporters after the meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana: "This common group will ensure and monitor the truce in particular".

The Syrian government's envoy to the talks accused Turkey, one of the sponsors, of continuing to support "terrorist" groups and urged Ankara to withdraw its troops from Syria.

In Geneva, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland called on parties to allow aid convoys to reach besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria to demonstrate "goodwill" before the talks in Geneva on February 23.

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