Astana Talks: Asad regime - Syrian Rebels meets in Kazakhstan

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Astana Talks: Asad regime - Syrian Rebels meets in Kazakhstan

ASTANA, Kazakhstan: (APP) Syrian rebels are set to meet their war-torn country's government on Monday in the Kazakh capital Astana, in the latest push to end the conflict.

It will be the first time a delegation composed exclusively of rebel groups will negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad 's regime since the war erupted in 2011 with protests against his rule.

Set to begin at 0800 GMT, the talks have been welcomed by all parties in the war.

However, delegates from both sides have arrived in Kazakhstan with apparently divergent ideas on the talks' aims.

Rebel groups have said the meeting will focus on bolstering a frail nationwide ceasefire brokered last month by Turkey and Russia.

But Assad has insisted that rebels lay down their arms in exchange for an amnesty deal, and called for a "comprehensive" political solution to a conflict that has killed more than 310,000 and displaced more than half of the country's population.

Chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush arrived in Astana on Sunday accompanied by around a dozen rebel figures, including Fares Buyush of the Idlib Army, an AFP correspondent said.

"This is not a replacement for the Geneva process," Buyush told AFP, referring to the UN-hosted political negotiations set to resume in Geneva next month.

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