Associated Press has provided a timeline of the Peace talks held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.
Talks between Syrian rebel factions and the government they are trying to overthrow are set to begin in Kazakhstan.
Monday’s meeting will be the first between Syria’s warring sides in a year and is expected to focus on consolidating a shaky cease-fire that has been in place since Dec. 30.
The talks are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran whose representatives in the Kazakh capital of Astana have held meetings with delegates from both sides late into the evening Sunday and early on Monday.
The opposition delegation, which arrived in Astana on Sunday, is made up of about a dozen rebel figures led by Mohammad Alloush of the powerful Army of Islam rebel group.
The Syrian government has sent its U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, and military delegates.
Russia- and Turkey-backed talks between Syrian rebel factions and government representatives have opened in Kazakhstan.
The talks are the first between the two warring sides in a year and mark the first face-to-face meeting between government representatives and a delegation heavily made up of rebels.
Representatives of Syria’s rebel factions sat on one side of a room at the luxury Rixos Hotel in the capital of Astana, while government delegates sat on the other side.
The talks are expected to focus on consolidating a shaky cease-fire that has been in place since Dec. 30.
Iran says that preserving a tenuous cease-fire in Syria will be “the most important issue” in talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Kazakhstan.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says Iran is hopeful that the talks held Monday and Tuesday can shore up the cease-fire and pave the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
He suggested that discussions over a larger political settlement would have to wait, saying: “Let’s wait and see how the process can be continued based on conclusions that will be announced Tuesday.”
The talks, organized by Russia and Turkey, are the latest attempt to halt the nearly six-year conflict. Russia and Iran are the main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while Turkey supports the armed opposition trying to topple him.
The two sides have traded blame for repeated violations of the Dec. 30 cease-fire, which was also brokered by Russia and Turkey.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the U.N. envoy for Syria is mediating between the representatives of the Damascus government and the rebel factions at the talks underway in Kazakhstan.
Lavrov said at a news conference on Monday in Moscow that Russia is “glad these talks started today, despite predictions and attempts to hamper” them.
He says the U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, will have the support of the Iranian delegation in contacts with Syrian government representatives while the Turkish delegation will be helping de Mistura reach out to the rebels attending the talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
After the opening ceremony in which the Syrian rebels and the government delegation sat across from one another at a round table, the talks went into a closed session.
There was no indication if rebels and government officials would be talking face-to-face behind closed doors but Lavrov’s remarks indicated that part of the gathering is more similar to proximity talks, with de Mistura shuttling between the two sides.
Syria’s government envoy at the peace talks in Astana has denounced as “provocative” and “insolent” a speech delivered by the head of the rebel factions attending the gathering in Kazakhstan.
Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, says rebel leader Mohammad Alloush’s speech in Astana did not rise to the level of the gathering of diplomats attending the conference.
Ja’afari in remarks to reporters in Astana repeatedly referred to the rebel delegation as representatives of “terrorist armed groups.” He also said that the agenda for the talks, which are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, is “not ready yet.”
The harsh and uncompromising tone of Ja’afari’s remarks was a bad omen for the talks, which had barely started with an opening ceremony and speeches by various representatives.
The head of Syria’s rebel delegation at the peace talks in Kazakhstan says the opposition is “ready to go to the ends of the earth” to end the bloodshed in Syria.
Mohammad Alloush told reporters on Monday, after an hour of indirect talks with government representatives in Astana that the rebels “are men of peace, and at the same time knights of war.”
Alloush is a political officer for the powerful Army of Islam faction fighting mostly around Damascus.
He attacked President Bashar Assad’s rule, calling it a “terror” state and said only after the cease-fire becomes a “reality on the ground” can the two sides move on to political talks.
He says the Syrian opposition will also insist at the talks in Astana on the resumption of aid deliveries and other humanitarian demands.