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Friday 22 September 2017

Russia proposes dates for Syrian peace talks

People rush out of damaged buildings after air strikes in the western part of the southern Daraa province of Syria (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP)
People rush out of damaged buildings after air strikes in the western part of the southern Daraa province of Syria (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP)

Russia has proposed that a two-day round of Syrian peace talks should start on July 4.

The news follows the Syrian military's announcement of the cessation of all combat operations in the southern city of Daraa for 48 hours in support of national reconciliation.

The July negotiations, to be held in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, are expected to finalise details of so-called safe zones to be set up in Syria.

Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the dates suggested for the talks seem to have been welcomed by everyone.

Russia also expects progress on Syria at a July 7 G20 summit in Germany, said Mr Bogdanov.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, who back opposing sides in Syria's brutal civil war, have brokered several rounds of peace talks in Astana this year, bringing together the Syrian government and rebel forces.

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria earlier said he plans a new round of peace talks in Geneva next month.

Staffan de Mistura's office said the aim was for delegates to arrive in the Swiss city on July 9 and for talks to start the next day, although it did not say how long the round is expected to last.

It also said Mr de Mistura plans to convene further rounds of talks in August and September.

The UN-hosted Geneva talks between parties to the conflict in Syria are the main political forum for efforts to end the six-year conflict.

Daraa saw some of the worst fighting in months amid fears by opposition activists that the government will try to take the contested city, where the country's civil war began in 2011.

But the army said all combat operations will stop for 48 hours as of 12pm on Saturday (0900 GMT).

A "de-escalation agreement" brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey in May has not brought any relief to the city, activists said. The agreement covers four zones in Syria where the rebels are fighting pro-government forces.

The Iraqi military has said it captured the al-Waleed border crossing with Syria from Islamic State with t ribal forces and border police, supported by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft.

Al-Waleed, in the far west of Iraq, fell to IS in 2015, giving the militants full control of the Iraq-Syria border, which they vowed to erase as part of their ambition to build a caliphate.

The militants have come under increasing pressure from government forces in recent months in the country's western deserts.

AP

Press Association

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