Wednesday Jan 11, 2017
DAMASCUS: With the dream of Russia and Turkey-brokered truce in Syria far from realisation, the hopes of Syrian people about Astana talks have been dying with every passing day.
Talks on Syria´s political future will now take place in Kazakhstan´s capital Astana on January 23, a source in the Russian foreign ministry said Wednesday. But previous reports suggested they had been postponed to March.
"At this time there is no indication that the meeting will be postponed. The date of January 23 is set," the source said of the negotiations to be hosted by Russia and Turkey between the Syrian government and rebel groups.
But, the latest hurdle in the way of Kazakhstan talks on Syria comes in the form of a Syrian Kurd group, which the United States wants to be made part of the talks, but Turkey - which is hosting negotiations - considers it a terrorist outfit.
There are nearly 100 opposition groups and nothing has yet been clear as to which groups will be invited to talks and things lie in a crude state pertaining to negotiations.
The diplomatic source said Wednesday that current preparations for the peace talks involve compiling a list of participants.
Some groups have already expressed concern over whether the meeting will be fully representative, with the Syrian Kurds, crucial Western allies in the Syrian war but despised by Turkey, on Tuesday saying they were not invited.
Syrian government aircraft pounded rebels and their allies in northern Syria overnight, a monitor said Wednesday, as Moscow announced new peace talks to be held in Kazakhstan on January 23.
Air raids targeted the rebel strongholds of Atarib and Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It had no immediate word on any casualties.
Since the ceasefire went into effect on December 30, the regime´s strikes on rebel strongholds have eased but have not stopped completely.
Assad´s forces have been battling rebels in Wadi Barada, the capital´s main water source in the northwest, for weeks and the fighting has continued despite ceasefire.
Millions of people have been without mains water for weeks after fighting damaged key infrastructure.
President Bashar al-Assad has claimed that Fateh al-Sham forces are present in the area, a charge rebels deny.
On Tuesday, the regime sent reinforcements to Wadi Barada, the Observatory said without providing further details.
"The role of the Syrian army is to liberate that area in order to prevent the rebels from using that water in order to suffocate the capital," Assad told French media in an interview aired on Monday.