Kazakhstan postpones Syria talks by a day

In addition, U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has been invited in his capacity as mediator of the Geneva peace talks, and the USA has been invited to participate as an observer.

An unnamed official from Russia's Defenxe Ministry told the Interfax news agency that delegations would hold bilateral meetings on Wednesday before a bigger meeting of all parties on Thursday which could produce a joint document.

The next round of Syria peace talks in Geneva is expected to begin next week, on February 23, the United Nations announced Monday.

But some of Syria's rebels say they won't begin negotiating a political settlement with the government until measures are taken to bolster a flagging cease-fire and address urgent humanitarian concerns.

"In theory, it is a complement to a still-live ongoing Geneva process", said Sam Heller, a non-resident fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank.

On Wednesday, Kazakhstan said talks initially slated for 15 February had been moved to the next day for unspecified "technical reasons".

But both denied being represented, and it remains unclear if they will seek to attend in separate delegations.

"The government is ready.as part of efforts towards the next meeting in Astana to exchange detainees for men, women and children - civilians and soldiers - kidnapped by terrorists", SANA said, referring to the rebels.

Jordan and the USA are attending the talks as observers.

The January meeting in Astana saw the three countries agree to a trilateral mechanism for observing and ensuring compliance with a cease-fire which came into effect on December 30.

The Russian-proposed draft of the Syrian constitution, presented at the Astana I talks last month, falls short of mentioning federalism as a system of governance in the war-torn country, but hints at larger cultural and administrative freedoms within a decentralized Syria.

The opposition-run monitoring group says government forces have responded with a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes, destroying at least one field hospital in the contested provincial capital.

A source close to the Syrian government said that the talks would be "purely military".

Rebel backer Turkey has signalled new flexibility on resolving the Syrian conflict but there is little sign the opposition feels the same way.

  • Joey Payne