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Kazakhstan Schedules Astana Talks On Syria For March 14-15

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry says it will host another round of Syrian peace talks on March 14-15.

In an official statement on March 9, the ministry said the talks in Astana would include delegates from Russia and Iran, which both back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, and from Turkey, which supports some Sunni Arab rebel factions.

The ministry said diplomats from the United Nations, the United States, and Jordan "are also being invited" to the talks.

The statement said the "guarantor countries expect that the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups will confirm their delegations' participation in the gathering."

The talks would be the third round of negotiations in Astana since January. Two previous rounds of talks in Astana ended without a breakthrough.

The United Nations special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, says he also has asked the warring parties to return to Geneva later in March as efforts to end Syria's nearly 7-year-old conflict intensify.

The UN special envoy did not announce a specific date for the next round of talks in Geneva.

De Mistura has been meeting in Geneva with government and opposition leaders in an effort to end the conflict that began in March 2011 when protests broke out in Syria against Assad's government.

Since then, an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and millions more have been displaced by fighting that has created one of the largest migrant crises in Europe since World War II.

The conflict has also involved fighters of the Islamic State (IS) militant group -- opposed by both sides -- which has served to complicate matters on the ground further.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.


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