Key international players in Syria's civil war gathered in Kazakhstan Wednesday (September 13th) for a fresh round of talks aimed at pushing a plan to ease fighting on the ground, AFP reported.
Representatives from regime backers Russia, Iran and opposition supporter Turkey held "talks on an expert level" to lay the groundwork ahead of the start of two days of meetings that will include the Syrian regime and opposition representatives, Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said.
The talks in Astana are the sixth round of negotiations since the start of the year.
This time around the sides are looking to nail down details of a proposed "de-escalation" zone in the northern Idlib province, after Moscow ploughed on with setting up three other safe areas around the country in a move that has seen violence drop.
There remain major disagreements over which force will be sent to police the zone covering opposition-held Idlib -- on Syria's northern border with Turkey -- as Ankara and Tehran jockey for influence.
Russia has so far deployed military police to patrol the boundaries of three zones agreed in the south, in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, and in part of the central Homs province.
Yehya al-Aridi, an advisor to the Syrian opposition, confirmed the opposition delegation would arrive in Astana on Wednesday evening, headed by Ahmed Berri, chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
"The aim of our participation in this round is to strengthen the de-escalation zones in Syria, in Eastern Ghouta, the south, and north of Homs, and to discuss many violations that took place since the ceasefire agreement was signed in Ankara at the end of the last year," al-Aridi told AFP.
A Syrian pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan reported that the government's delegation, led by the country's UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari, had arrived in Astana early on Wednesday.