Syrian opposition denies knowledge of Russia talks

George Sabra, member of the main Syrian opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), gives a press conference on the second round of Syrian peace talks at the UN headquarters in Geneva on March 17, 2016.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that the Syrian government was holding talks with the opposition ahead of possible peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Interfax news agency reported.

Lavrov did not say where the current talks were being held and it was unclear which opposition groups were taking part.

The High Negotiations Committee, a body grouping armed and political opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, said it had no knowledge of the negotiations.

The HNC includes armed groups fighting Assad under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, and took part in a failed bid to launch peace talks earlier this year.

Russia, Iran and Turkey said last week they were ready to help broker a peace deal after holding talks in Moscow where they adopted a declaration setting out the principles any agreement should adhere to.

President Vladimir Putin has said that all three countries and Assad had agreed that the Kazakh capital should be the venue for new talks.

Syria Ceasefire

Lavrov spoke to his Turkish counterpart by telephone on Tuesday and they agreed to push for a ceasefire and to prepare for the Astana talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The RIA news agency cited an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that representatives from the Russian and Turkish militaries were holding consultations with the Syrian opposition in Ankara about how a possible nationwide ceasefire might work.


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