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Kazakh capital seeks center stage with Syria peace talks

Nazarbayev promotes Astana as venue for international negotiations

Delegates at the fourth round of the Astana Peace Process on the Syrian conflict which met in May. (Courtesy Government of Kazakhstan)

ASTANA -- In its 20 years as Kazakhstan's capital, Astana has attracted a range of labels. Some observers have described its high-rise office blocks and themed shopping malls as a futuristic vision for urban living amid the harsh steppes of central Asia. Others have thought the city bizarre, focusing on its mock Arc de Triomphe and neoclassical opera house.

Now Astana, a little-known regional administrative center called Tselinograd when Kazakhstan was part of the former Soviet Union, can add another name to the list: Local commentators have dubbed the city a "global center for peacemaking," seeing it as a sort of second Geneva.

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