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France says Syria talks must convene quickly under United Nations

Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Thursday Syrian peace talks should resume as quickly as possible under the auspices of the United Nations and appeared to question plans for Russian-backed discussions on the subject in Kazakhstan.

Syria's government and rebel forces started a ceasefire on Dec. 30 as a first step towards face-to face negotiations, backed by Turkey and Russia, and due to take place in the Kazakh capital Astana. The date and its participants remain unclear.

The United Nations had previously led talks in Geneva, but after several fruitless rounds and an escalation of violence in the six-year civil war that has benefited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, Moscow and Ankara agreed in December to launch new peace efforts.

"Negotiations have to resume as quickly as possible," President Francois Hollande told the foreign diplomatic corps in a New Year address.

"They have to be led under the auspices of the United Nations within the framework agreed in Geneva in 2012."

Moscow has said the proposed Astana talks would complement the United Nations. However, European diplomats and opposition sources have suggested only some armed groups will be invited with political opposition representation limited despite discussions on aspects such as the constitution.

Hollande, a key backer of the Syrian opposition, said there was no need to go over the framework for talks.

"The parameters have been set so what needs to be done is to invite the concerned parties, all the parties, except fundamentalist and extremist groups, and to act in the Geneva framework," Hollande said.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has said he wants to convene a new round of talks during February.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)

 

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