Syrian regime says constitution not discussed in Astana

The second round of Syria talks are expected to discuss provisions on monitoring a ceasefire and adopting a final statement, Kazakh Foreign Ministry's Asia and Africa Department Director General Aidarbek Tumatov said Thursday.

A rebel spokesman, Yehya al-Aridi, said on February 15 the opposition was participating, but as a "smaller" delegation than the one it sent for the talks in Astana last month, when it refused to negotiate directly with Damascus.

The meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, includes representatives from the government and armed rebel groups, and is aimed at reinforcing a cease-fire that has been violated on a daily basis.

Russian Federation has maintained good ties with the Kurdish region, and pushed hard to include them in the Syrian talks aimed to end the six-year civil war, especially in Geneva, a move strongly opposed by Turkey and the HNC.

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.

"The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to ensure a successful confirmation of arrangements for the convening of intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva".

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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 envoys gather for talks on February 23.

The talks also involve Syrian government backers Russian Federation and Iran.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, all the main divisions between the two sides remain to be resolved, key among them Assad's fate.

"I still don't believe the loyalist alliance is serious about. making some serious compromise, rather than asking for the rebels' surrender disguised as a political settlement", said Thomas Pierret, a Syria expert at the University of Edinburgh.

The first set of talks on Syria that took place in the Central Asian country's capital in January did not result in any significant breakthrough.

  • Megan Austin