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Kazakhstan pledges continued platform for Syria talks

KAZAKHSTAN PLEDGES CONTINUED PLATFORM FOR SYRIA TALKS

Kazakhstan will continue to provide a platform for international actors to meet to help resolve the Syrian conflict, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Monday.

"We are ready to continue providing a platform for international meetings on Syria," Nazarbayev was quoted as saying by national news agency Kazinform.

Nazarbayev said that the Astana talks have already proved their effectiveness.

He added that the Bashar al-Assad regime and armed opposition were able to convey their views.

"We hope that the meeting, which will be held in Astana on July 4 and 5, will be as effective as the previous ones," Nazarbayev told a group of heads of diplomatic missions.

The Kazakh capital Astana will host the fifth round of talks to resolve the situation in Syria with the participation of the Assad regime and the armed opposition.

At the fourth meeting on May 4, the three guarantor countries -- Russia, Turkey and Iran -- signed a deal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told reporters on Monday that some delegations are already in Astana now ahead of the meeting.

"Participants at the meeting are already beginning to arrive," he was quoted as saying by Kazinform.

Abdrakhmanov said the meeting will be attended by representatives from the Syrian regime, the opposition, and the guarantor countries.

He said delegations from Jordan and the U.S. will also attend the talks.

"The arrival of UN Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura is also expected," he added.

Following the Dec. 30 cease-fire, the first round of Astana talks was held on Jan. 23-24, brokered by Turkey, which backs the opposition, and Russia and Iran, which support the Assad regime.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and in excess of 10 million displaced, according to the UN.

Turkey, which borders Syria, now hosts some 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Turkey has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

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