Fresh round of Syria talks open in Kazakhstan capital

A fresh round of peace talks seeking to end Syria’s war opened in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on Monday. Closed-format two-day negotiations have begun, Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Anuar Zhainakov told AFP. The latest round begins days after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) was forced out of its de facto capital, Raqqa, in northern Syria. Recent rounds of talks in the Central Asian nation have focused on ironing out the details of a Russia-led plan for four de-escalation zones in Syria. A de-escalation zones plan was first tabled in Astana in May to minimize fighting between government forces and moderate rebel factions. The work also concerns efforts to improve access for aid for civilians living in the zones.