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Kazakh President Offers To Host Syria Peace Talks

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, and visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in 2007.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has offered to host fresh peace talks between the warring sides in the Syria conflict as part of a plan floated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nazarbaev's press service said in a December 17 statement that he informed Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in telephone conversations that he is prepared to host the talks in Astana, the capital of the former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

Putin said a day earlier during a visit to Japan that he and Erdogan were working on organizing new peace negotiations between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition. Putin said the talks could take place in Astana.

Russia and Turkey had brokered a cease-fire deal allowing the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters from remaining rebel-held territory in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where Assad's forces have conducted an offensive that has been sharply criticized by the UN and Western governments.

Thousands were evacuated under the effort before it was halted on December 16 -- a day after it started -- amid conflicting allegations of cease-fire violations.

There were reports on December 17, however, that a deal had been struck to allow the evacuation to resume.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP