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Iran, Russia, Turkey to hold Syria meeting without Syrians

The announcement comes as Syrian regime forces intensify their bombing of Eastern Ghouta. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 March, 2018

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Talks on Syria in Astana, which have usually involved regime and opposition delegations, as well as the three guarantors, began in January 2017.

Iran, Russia and Turkey will send foreign ministers to Kazakhstan next week to move forward a plan to end the seven-year Syrian civil war.

Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the top diplomats of regime allies Moscow and Tehran and rebel-backer Turkey would hold a 16 March meeting in the capital Astana "without observers or Syrian sides."

The United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura would also be invited to the meeting. 

Talks on Syria in Astana, which have usually involved regime and opposition delegations, as well as the three guarantors, began in January 2017

They run parallel to UN-led negotiations in Geneva and were credited with bringing about a reduction in hostilities between regime and rebel forces after the agreement on the safe zones was reached. 

The announcement comes as Syrian regime forces intensify their bombing of the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, just outside Damascus. 

The siege has been so intense that it even caused a UN aid convoy to cut short its mission to supply the besieged area at the beginning of the week.  

Eastern Ghouta is one of four "de-escalation" zones that were devised in order to keep rebel and regime forces at arm's length as part of a plan thrashed out in Astana last year. 

The US on Monday accused the Syrian regime and its ally Russia of using "indiscriminate force" in the area in a strongly critical statement.

The regime's bombardment in Eastern Ghouta started on 18 February and has killed nearly 800 civilians in the space of 10 days, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The heavy escalation in violence appears to have reduced hopes of any peace settlement in the near future. 

Assad's forces have seized over a quarter of the enclave on Damascus's eastern edges after two weeks of devastating bombardment, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor. 

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