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Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan January 23, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Syria's armed opposition groups have announced their new delegation for an upcoming round of peace talks brokered by the United Nations and set to be held in the Swiss city of Geneva, scrapping Saudi-backed terrorist groups.
The so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a coalition of foreign-backed Syrian opposition groups, made the announcement in a statement on Sunday, saying that the final composition of the delegation included 10 representatives of militant groups and 11 opposition politicians, mostly affiliated with the armed groups within the coalition.
The Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham militant group and Jaysh al-Islam do not have any representatives in the delegation, which could be perceived as a sign that the armed opposition groups are trying to distance themselves from Riyadh's warmongering policies in Syria.
The statement, which was issued amid a conference held by the umbrella HNC group in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, further said that the delegation would be headed by Nasr al-Hariri, a senior member of the so-called National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, in the fresh round of the peace negotiations, scheduled to be held on February 20.
Mohamed Sabra was also selected as the chief negotiator of the delegation. He replaced Mohamad Alloush, a member of the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam terrorist group. Alloush served as the chief negotiator for the so-called opposition groups during three previous rounds of peace talks in Geneva, the last of which was held on April 13-27 last year and ended with no result.
Syrian children look at a train traveling through devastated eastern districts in the northwestern city of Aleppo for the first time in more than four years, January 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Geneva talks were originally planned to take place on February 8, but UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he had rescheduled them to take further advantage of the fruits of Astana discussions.
On January 23-24, Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, hosted talks on Syria organized by Iran, Russia and Turkey, with the presence of representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups.
At the end of the talks, Tehran, Moscow and Ankara agreed on the establishment of a trilateral mechanism to support a ceasefire in Damascus. The trio stressed that there was no military solution to the Syria conflict and it can be only resolved through a political process based on a full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
For nearly six years, Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy. De Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then. The UN stopped its official casualty count in the war-torn country, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.

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