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16 February 2017, 01:05 | Clarence Schmidt
Kayhan Ozer Pool via AP
On Wednesday, Salim al-Muslit, the spokesman of the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) that includes militant groups and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, said he supported direct talks between the HNC and the Syrian government. The Syrian opposition demands humanitarian aid access and the release of detainees before any negotiations over Syria's political future.
Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has sought to revive diplomacy since its air force helped to defeat rebels in Aleppo in December, the Syrian leader's biggest victory to date.
This was the second meeting between the two diplomats before the talks. Turkey has avoided any discussions on a political settlement, saying Astana should not be an alternative to United Nations -sponsored talks in Geneva, the venue for political negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the regime.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, speaking in Italy, said he would apply the agenda laid out in a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at ending the conflict. The Syrian government has not yet responded to the report on state media.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Muslit said the HNC sought to start the negotiations by discussing a governing body to oversee what he said was a transition of power. The communique said it should be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry on Wednesday had confirmed that the beginning of the second round of Astana talks on Syria has been delayed until Thursday noon (06:00 GMT).
This month, the Syrian regime and opposition groups swapped dozens of women prisoners and hostages, some of them with their children, in Hama province in northwestern Syria.
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