(Adds comment from Kremlin spokesman)
MOSCOW Dec 23 President Vladimir Putin said on
Friday that Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad had all agreed that the Kazakh capital of Astana should
be the venue for new Syrian peace negotiations.
Russia, Iran and Turkey held talks in Moscow on Tuesday
after which they said they were ready to help broker a Syrian
peace deal. Putin proposed holding the negotiations in
Kazakhstan, a close Russian ally.
Russian air strikes were instrumental in helping Assad wipe
out rebel resistance this month in the northern city of Aleppo,
handing him his biggest victory in nearly six years of war and
strengthening his negotiating hand.
Previous diplomatic attempts to end the conflict have
repeatedly failed. Despite the government's recapture of Aleppo,
large parts of Syria are still controlled by insurgent and
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said he
expected the talks in Astana to take place in mid-January. But
TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as
saying: "I wouldn't talk now about timing. Right now contacts
are being made and preparation is under way for the meeting."
He said Putin would have a series of international telephone
calls later on Friday to discuss the Astana talks. Speaking at
his end-of-year news conference, Putin said the next step for
Syria would be a nationwide ceasefire.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova, Vladimir Soldatkin and Denis
Pinchuk; Writing by Peter Hobson; Editing by Andrew Osborn and