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Fresh Syria talks set for July 10 in Astana

MOSCOW (AFP) - 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that the next round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital Astana will be held on July 10.

The meeting is set to coincide with a fresh round of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks that will also begin in Geneva the same day.

"The latest meeting of participants will take place in Astana on July 10," Lavrov said at a news conference in Beijing, quoted on the foreign ministry website.

He said UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura -- who announced the date for the Geneva round on Saturday -- will take part in the Russian-backed talks.

It was not immediately clear whether the talks in Geneva and Astana would be held simultaneously or at different times.

"The subject is currently being discussed," a spokesman for De Mistura told AFP in Geneva.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova simply confirmed to AFP that the date of July 10 had been agreed.

A new round of Astana talks had been scheduled for June but was then indefinitely postponed as key players wrangled over the future of fragile safe zones agreed for Syria in May.

Russia and Iran, which back President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the war, and Turkey, a supporter of rebel forces, signed an agreement on May 4 on setting up four safe zones.

Lavrov on Monday said the de-escalation zones "are one of the possible options to move forward together".

Moscow has spearheaded the Astana talks since the start of the year as it tries to turn its game-changing military intervention on the ground into a negotiated settlement.

The tetchy negotiations -- seen as a complement to the broader UN-backed talks in Geneva -- have involved armed rebels and government officials and have focused mainly on military issues.

The last Geneva talks ended on May 19 after four days without making any real progress.

The six-year Syrian conflict has killed more than 320,000 people and seen nearly two thirds of Syrians forced from their homes.

© 2017 AFP