(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The eighth round of Syria peace talks backed by Turkey, Russia and Iran kicked off in Kazakhstan's capital Astana on Thursday.
Astana hosts another two-day meeting attended by representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, which are the guarantor states that brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana peace talks that are running parallel to Geneva talks.
The Turkish delegation is chaired by the deputy undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, Sedat Önal, while Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian president's special envoy for Syria, leads his delegation, and Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari heads Iran's.
The bilateral talks between the delegations started at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The Turkish delegation had a meeting with the Russian team. Önal and the Iranian delegation are expected to hold a bilateral meeting at 3.00 p.m. local time (0900GMT).
Representatives of the Syrian regime, armed opposition groups, as well as delegations from the UN, Jordan and the U.S. also participate in the talks.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry announced that U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura would attend the meeting on Friday.
The talks are also to address the release of captives and hostages, the clearing of landmines, the inspection of cease-fire violations in the de-escalation zones and the preparation for a Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which is expected to be held in Russia's coastal city of Sochi in the near future.
Thursday's bilateral and multilateral talks will take place in a closed-door format. A plenary meeting is scheduled for Friday.
A fragile ceasefire brokered at the end of last year by Moscow and Ankara has been bolstered somewhat by the negotiations in Astana, which began in January and have continued in parallel to fruitless U.N.-led talks in Geneva.
A year on from the devastating and strategically crucial regime victory in Aleppo, the Syrian regime has consolidated control over much of the country.