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New Round Of Syria Peace Talks Under Way In Astana

The latest round of talks are being held in Astana's Rixos President Hotel. (file photo)

A new round of Syria peace talks sponsored by Iran, Russia, and Turkey began on December 21 in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said Syrian regime representatives and an opposition delegation had arrived in Astana for two days of meetings.

After holding talks with a United Nations team, the opposition said it was more important "than ever before" that Russia push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government toward a political settlement.

Meanwhile, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the Russian delegation met separately with the Iranian and Turkish delegations.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions have been driven from their homes since the conflict began in March 2011 with a crackdown on antigovernment protests.

Russia and Iran support Assad's government, while the United States and Turkey support differing rebel groups.

The Astana talks have run parallel to UN-sponsored peace negotiations taking place in Geneva.

The Kremlin also hopes to convene a "national congress" of government and opposing forces in the Russian city of Sochi.

But no firm date has been set yet for that meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on December 21.

Nobody wants "to artificially accelerate" plans for the congress, Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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