February 16, 2017 / 12:46 PM / 2 years ago

Syria talks in Astana facing difficulties: Iran delegate

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The head of Iran’s delegation to the Syria peace talks in Astana said on Thursday that the negotiations were facing difficulties and blamed them on the opposition and its backers, Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV reported.

The delegate said it was important to stay on the “right path” in the talks, which began in the Kazakh capital on Thursday, a day later than originally planned after the late arrival of Syrian rebel negotiators.

Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and Turkey, which supports the rebels, are brokering the talks. At a first round of the Astana talks in January, Russia, Turkey and Iran, another Assad ally, reaffirmed a shaky ceasefire between insurgents and the Syrian government.

The ceasefire has been repeatedly violated, with each side blaming the other, while fighting with jihadist groups such as Islamic State which are not included in the truce has raged on.

Delegations of the Damascus government and the rebels who attended the January round of Astana talks refused to negotiate directly with each other or to sign any documents at the time.

Negotiations hosted by the United Nations in Geneva are due to begin next week.

Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Gareth Jones

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