ASTANA – The latest round of the Astana Process talks on compliance with the ceasefire in Syria started on Thursday in Kazakhstan’s capital, the Central Asian nation’s Foreign Ministry said.
“The meetings of the experts have started. They are taking place behind closed doors in bilateral and multilateral formats,” said the head of the ministry’s press service, Anuar Zhainakov.
He said representatives of the Syrian opposition and government, as well as of the three guarantor countries: Russia, Iran and Turkey were attending Astana-8 talks.
The Russian delegation is headed by Moscow’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, while the Iranian and Turkish sides are to be led by deputy foreign ministers Sedat Onal and Husein Yaberi Ansari, respectively.
Observers from Jordan and the United States will participate in Astana-8, which will focus on the release of prisoners and hostages, the exchange of the bodies of those killed as well as the search for missing persons.
Russian media has reported that the discussions would also include Moscow’s push to host a Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian resort city of Sochi early next year.
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is due to arrive in Astana on Friday to attend the plenary session, the Kazakh ministry announced.
Mistura is expected to meet in Moscow on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to address the situation in the war-torn Arab nation.