More Syria peace talks begin in Kazakhstan
A sixth round of peace talks aimed at ending the Syria conflict began Thursday in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.
Beside three guarantor countries -- Russia, Turkey, and Iran -- and the UN Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura, delegations from Jordan and the U.S. also attended as observers.
According to Kazakhstan's foreign ministry, Qatar has also participated the meeting for the first time as an observer country.
One of the most important topics to be discussed is the establishment of de-escalation zones in Idlib, according to the parties attending the meeting.
In addition, the release of detainees and captives kept by the Bashar al-Assad regime, the handing over of remains and the search for missing persons are also among the issues to be tackled during the two-day meeting.
On May 4, Moscow, Ankara and Tehran agreed to set up four de-escalation zones in Syria.
According to the agreement, the zones -- in which acts of aggression are nominally prohibited -- would cover the city of Idlib and certain parts of Latakia, Homs, Aleppo and Hama provinces, along with Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, Daraa and Quneitra.
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 Bashar al-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.