Astana invites Syrian rebels, government to talks next week

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If the ceasefire is ensured, this will contribute to the success of the Geneva talks, he said. However, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed that the rebels should take part in UN-led peace talks opening in Geneva on February 20.

As the delegation's chief negotiator, Sabra will replace Mohammed Alloush from the Jaysh al-Islam group, who announced the decision to leave his post in May 2016 citing the failure of the previous round of Geneva talks.

The main opposition umbrella group called on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end ceasefire violations, accusing it of taking advantage of time in between talks to carry out air raids on rebel groups.

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The team will be backed by a 21-member panel of political, legal and military specialists, it added.

The HNC took part in peace talks a year ago, but was not invited to the Kazakh capital Astana, where indirect talks between regime and rebel delegates were held last month.

"It is important that these negotiations are credible, that the parties come in good faith, because we have already had disappointing experiences", Ayrault said at a joint news conference with the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

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On February 10-11, Riyadh hosted a meeting of Syrian opposition that brought together members of the Syrian National Coalition, the NHC and representatives of Syrian armed groups who attended the January 23-24 reconciliation talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

They ended with Moscow, Ankara and Tehran agreeing to monitor government and rebel compliance with a shaky ceasefire.

The next round of Astana talks will discuss observance of the ceasefire and stabilisation measures for specific areas and other "practical steps" ahead of the talks in Geneva, Kazakhstan said.

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