Russia, Turkey and Iran agree to safeguard Syrian ceasefire
Peace talks in Kazakhstan between the Syrian government and rebel factions have concluded with Russia, Turkey and Iran striking a deal on a three-way mechanism to consolidate a ceasefire in the country.
At the end of the two-day summit in Astana, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, said the three countries will use their "influence" to strengthen the truce, without specifying how that would work.
His statement said the three nations will continue their joint efforts in fighting Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.
It also calls for Syria's rebels to separate from the al-Qaida-linked group, known as Fatah al-Sham.
The statement added that agreement in Astana paves the way for political talks to be held in Geneva on February 8.
The Syrian government said the talks have succeeded in consolidating the month-long truce.
Bashar al-Ja'afari, Syria's UN ambassador, who headed the government delegation to the talks in Astana, said president Bashar Assad's government has done all it can to "remove obstacles" facing the gathering.
He told reporters t hat the deal paves the way for more dialogue among Syrians in the future.
Calls for the Syrian opposition to separate themselves from the al-Qaida-affiliate has proven a thorny issue, which was previously cited as the reason other ceasefires failed.
The rebel groups have formed close links with Fatah al-Sham on the ground. The group is excluded from the ceasefire, according to the government, but the rebels say the truce should include all of Syria.
The Astana summit featured a brief face-to-face meeting between the government and rebel representatives - their first since the Syrian civil war began in 2011 - but this was quickly followed by harsh exchanges.
Syrian opposition representative Osama Abo Zayd said the rebels had reservations about the final statement, because Iran, which fights alongside the government, should not be considered a sponsor of the talks, but a party to the conflict.