MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick have been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Roddick was the last American man to capture a Grand Slam singles trophy, winning the 2003 U.S. Open championship. He also reached the final at Wimbledon in 2004, 05 and ’09 and the U.S. Open in ’06.

“It’s the resting place you want for a tennis career,” Roddick said of the Hall of Fame recognition at the Australian Open in Melbourne. “It’s not something I thought I was entitled to. I’m not a shoo-in like Roger (Federer) or Serena (Williams) or anyone like that, so I certainly appreciate it.”

Roddick was ranked No. 1 for 13 weeks before Federer gained the top ranking in February 2004 and held it for 237 consecutive weeks.

Clijsters, a Belgian, won four Grand Slam singles titles — the U.S. Open in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and the Australian Open in 2011 — along with two major doubles titles.

“I think to be inducted in the Tennis Hall of Fame obviously means you’ve done something really well in tennis, but also that you are respected by your fellow tennis players who are already in that position, and I feel very honored,” Clijsters said in a video message posted to the Hall of Fame Twitter account.

Also in the Class of 2017 announced by the hall on Monday: wheelchair tennis player Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch, tennis historian and journalist Steve Flink, and the late instructor Vic Braden.

Roddick, Kalkman-van den Bosch and Flink were scheduled to participate in a ceremony at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The full class will be inducted at the hall on July 22.

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals took the unusual step of apologizing on Monday night for the conduct of cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones that was recorded in a police video released to the media.

Jones was arrested after an altercation at a downtown hotel the day after Cincinnati’s season ended with a 6-9-1 record. The 33-year-old cornerback was charged for the confrontation and for allegedly spitting on a nurse as he was processed at the county jail. Jones has said he’ll be exonerated of the charges.

Cincinnati police released a video on Monday showing Jones’ behavior in the back seat of a police car as he was taken to the jail. Jones asks what charges he’s facing and when he’s told two misdemeanors, he uses a stream of profanity toward the police officers.

At one point, Jones tells one of the offers that “I hope you die tomorrow.”

Jones’ language is so vulgar in the video that the Bengals issued an apology — a rare move for the team that usually avoids comment while a player’s case goes through the court system.

“We are extremely disappointed with Adam’s behavior,” the team said. “The behavior in the video is not what we expect from our players. The club is aware that Adam has put forth his own apology. However, we also offer an apology to the public and to our loyal fans.”

The NFL could suspend Jones for the start of next season under its player conduct policy. Jones has been suspended repeatedly during his career.

His case took an unexpected turn when Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said that he was waiting to see how the NFL reacted to Jones’ arrest before deciding how to proceed. As a result, Jones’ case was continued until Feb. 10. The police video released on Monday could factor into Deters’ decision about whether to prosecute Jones.

In addition to misdemeanor charges over the altercation at the hotel, Jones faces charges that he head-butted police and spit on a nurse at the jail after his arrest. The sheriff’s office — which runs the jail — said Jones was so combative that he had to be placed in a restraint chair.

The former West Virginia star was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft, expected to help anchor Tennessee’s defense for many years. His off-field problems started with a strip club melee in Las Vegas in 2007. He pleaded the equivalent of no contest to a misdemeanor charge.

Jones was blamed for instigating violence that led to someone else shooting two club employees, one of whom was left paralyzed from the waist down. He was ordered to pay more than $12.4 million in damages. The NFL suspended Jones for the 2007 season.

He was traded to the Cowboys, and was suspended again in 2009 for six games over an alcohol-related altercation with a bodyguard that the Cowboys provided.

Bengals owner Mike Brown decided to give him another chance, signing him as a free agent before the 2010 season. Jones played in at least 14 games over each of the past five seasons, becoming one of the Bengals’ top cornerbacks and kick returners. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2015.

While in Cincinnati, he was involved in several court cases.

Jones was acquitted in 2013 on an assault charge in Hamilton County after a woman accused him of punching her in a nightclub. Earlier that year, he paid a fine for disorderly conduct after police accused him of making offensive comments during a traffic stop. He also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in January 2012 after an arrest at a Cincinnati bar.


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ATLANTA (AP) — Jamal Crawford felt he was ready to break out of his shooting slump. A little advice from Dominique Wilkins helped, too.

Crawford scored eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Los Angeles also went 14 for 24 from 3-point range while improving to 1-1 on a five-game trip. Austin Rivers scored 27 points, and J.J. Redick had 17.

Crawford’s final basket was a successful drive after Atlanta cut the Clippers’ lead from 24 to five points.

Crawford had made only 7 of 41 shots in his last four games, and his shooting woes were the subject of a pregame question to coach Doc Rivers just as the guard walked by. Rivers shifted the question to Crawford, who had a quick answer.

“Let’s change that narrative tonight,” Crawford said.

Crawford, who played for the Hawks from 2009-11, followed through with the plan, making 9 of 20 shots. He said he spoke before the game with Wilkins, a Hall of Famer who works as a TV analyst with the Hawks, and he offered him encouragement to keep shooting.

“It really hit home,” Crawford said.

Rivers said Crawford’s chat with Wilkins could lead in only one direction.

“I think once I saw him talking to Dominique I said, ‘He’s going to shoot tonight!'” said Rivers, who played with Wilkins with the Hawks.

Crawford’s big game helped the Clippers take a 38-13 advantage in bench scoring.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Austin Rivers’ 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining helped seal the win. Rivers made 5 of 10 3s.

The Clippers led 69-45 before Atlanta finally gained momentum late in the third period. Back-to-back three-point plays by Howard cut the lead to 79-71. The Hawks kept the deficit under 10 points much of the final period.


Clippers: Raymond Felton had 14 points. … Austin Rivers sat on the court holding his ankle following a missed layup and then left the game, heading straight to the locker room, with 1:58 remaining in the first half. He returned to start the second half.

Hawks: The Hawks took only their third loss in their last 14 games. … Falcons players Brian Poole and Taylor Gabriel drew cheers when shown on the videoboard, one day after Atlanta beat Green Bay in the NFC championship game. … The Hawks fell to 22-6 when scoring at least 100 points. … Bazemore tied his season scoring high.


The Clippers made exactly half of their shots from the field — 42 of 84. They are 17-0 when shooting at least 50 percent.


Atlanta’s Paul Millsap had 19 points and seven assists. After the Hawks cut the deficit to five points, he had to leave the game with a cut on his elbow.

“It’s tough losing the best player on your team,” Schroder said.

Millsap said the real key was Atlanta lacked “a sense of urgency” in the first half.


The Clippers improved to 3-7 while playing without stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Griffin, who had arthroscopic right knee surgery on Dec. 20, warmed up before the game and Doc Rivers said he “most likely” will play Tuesday night at Philadelphia.

Paul is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a ligament in his left thumb on Jan 16.

“When a team is without their stars, they’re going to move the ball and try to play the right way,” Millsap said. “They did that. I think we maybe took a little bit for granted.”


Clippers: Visit the 76ers on Tuesday night.

Hawks: Play at Chicago on Wednesday night.


Trump will find it hard to make American economy greater

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s economic plans are nothing if not ambitious: Annual growth of 4 percent — or more. A diminished trade gap. The creation of 25 million jobs over 10 years, including the return of good-paying factory positions.

It all adds up to an immense challenge, one that Trump aims to achieve mostly by cutting taxes, loosening regulations, boosting infrastructure spending and renegotiating or withdrawing from trade deals. At the top of his agenda: Pulling out of the 12-nation Pacific trade agreement, a move Trump initiated Monday, his first full weekday in office. He has also said he will rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement to better serve the United States.

Yet to come anywhere near his goals, economists say Trump would have to surmount at least a handful of major hurdles that have long defied solutions.


Trump properties face global terror risk with presidency

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Businesses around the world bearing U.S. President Donald Trump’s name face an increased risk now that he is in the White House, security experts warn, especially as several are in areas previously targeted by violence.

As Trump remains a brand overseas, criminal gangs or militants could target buildings bearing his name, abduct workers associated with his enterprises for ransom or worse, they say.

U.S. brands have been targeted in overseas violence before, but they never belonged to a president. That’s the difference. Trump becoming America’s 45th president presents a unique challenge given the range of his international business interests.


Lawsuit: Trump business ties violate Constitution

NEW YORK (AP) — A watchdog group on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit claims that Trump is violating a clause that prohibits him from receiving money from diplomats for stays at his hotels or foreign governments for leases of office space in his buildings. The language in the clause is disputed by legal experts. But it signals the start of a legal assault on what critics see as unprecedented conflicts between his business and the presidency.

Trump says the lawsuit is “without merit, totally without merit.”


Samsung details causes of Note 7 fires but questions remain

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung says a thorough investigation into the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 phone has confirmed widely held suspicions that its batteries were to blame, marking a first but important step toward restoring consumer confidence.

The company announced tighter quality controls and more rigorous testing and took responsibility for failing to ensure that design specifications given to its suppliers were failsafe. It also is delaying its next Galaxy phone, the Galaxy S8, which is usually announced in February.

The spontaneous fires prompted Samsung to recall millions of phones and take a $5.3 billion hit on its earnings and a blow to its reputation.


McDonald’s sales dip in US, underscoring comeback challenges

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s is trying stage a comeback but is struggling on its home turf.

The world’s biggest burger chain said U.S. sales dipped 1.3 percent at established locations for the final three months of the year. Customer traffic also continued to slide for all of 2016 despite the rollout of an all-day breakfast menu, marking the fourth straight year of declines domestically.

Since the start of 2013, customer counts are down 10 percent at established U.S. locations.

Overseas, the company’s quarterly performance was better, and sales rose globally.


US stock indexes close slightly lower; oil prices slide

Energy companies led U.S. stock indexes slightly lower Monday as the price of crude oil fell.

Real estate, phone companies and other high-dividend stocks did better than the rest of the market as bond yields headed lower, making those sectors more appealing to investors seeking income.

Investors focused on the latest batch of company earnings and deal news. They also had their eye on Washington, where President Donald Trump reaffirmed plans to slash regulations on businesses and tax foreign goods entering the country.


Yahoo’s 4Q shows modest strides amid security breach fallout

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo’s financial performance improved slightly during the fourth quarter while the company dealt with the fallout from massive security breaches that have jeopardized the $4.8 billion sale of its internet operations to Verizon Communications.

The fourth-quarter report released Monday provided the latest snapshot of a shrinking company that has been steadily losing ground in the digital advertising market that generates most of its revenue. Yahoo also disclosed the closure of the Verizon deal will be delayed for up to three months.

Although cost-cutting helped Yahoo bounce back from a loss during the same time in the previous year, the company’s net revenue slipped yet again to extend a downturn that has lasted through most of CEO Marissa Mayer’s four-and-half-year tenure. In a sign of modest progress, Yahoo’s revenue fell 4 percent after subtracting ad commissions, snapping a streak of four consecutive quarters of double-digit declines.


Federal judge swats Aetna-Humana insurer combo

A federal judge has rejected health insurer Aetna’s $34 billion bid to buy rival Humana on grounds that the deal would hurt competition in hundreds of Medicare Advantage markets, ultimately affecting the price consumers pay for coverage.

U.S. District Judge John Bates said in an opinion filed Monday that federal regulation would probably be “insufficient to prevent the merged firm from raising prices or reducing benefits,” and plans to sell some of the combined company’s business to would likely not be enough to ease competitive concerns.

Aetna spokesman TJ Crawford said the insurer was reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.


Sprint is buying a 33 percent stake in Tidal

NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint is buying a 33 percent stake of the Tidal, the music streaming service owned by artists like Jay-Z, Madonna and Kanye West.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Tidal has a more than 42.5 million song catalog and 140,000 videos. It’s available in more than 52 countries. The partnership will include Tidal and its artists making exclusive content for Sprint’s new and current customers. Sprint has 45 million retail customers.

Jay-Z and the other artist-owners will continue to run the Tidal service.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will join Tidal’s board.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,799.85. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 6.11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,265.20. The Nasdaq composite lost 2.39 points, or 0.04 percent, to 5,552.94.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 47 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close at $52.75 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, to close at $55.23 per barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.57 a gallon, while heating oil slipped 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 4 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $3.24 per 1,000 cubic feet.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Women, minorities and transgender people have felt unwelcome and unsafe in Philadelphia’s gay neighborhood for decades, according to a city report issued Monday.

To address the issue, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations recommended that Gayborhood bars and nonprofits undergo training for racial bias and hire more diverse staff. The agency has issued an action plan for the next three months and said organizations that do not cooperate could be punished or face legal action.

“It is maybe not as palpable as it was, but it’s still there,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, a lifelong resident of the city. “We need to do everything we can as a government to hold it up.”

Located downtown, the Gayborhood — Philadelphia’s version of New York’s Greenwich Village, Washington’s Dupont Circle, West Hollywood or San Francisco’s Castro — is the main social hub for LGBT residents.

The issue of racism in the Gayborhood gained renewed interest in September after a video clip surfaced showing a Gayborhood club owner using a racial slur. Black gay patrons say they have been carded and subjected to exclusionary dress codes.

Kenney was swift to condemn the allegations and has vowed not to patronize the Gayborhood until changes were made.

The city held a public hearing in October and compiled a report based on verbal and written testimony from community members. Among its findings were that the business practices of Gayborhood bars resulted in numerous reports of racism and discrimination and that former and current employees at LGBTQ social service agencies have reported patterns of discrimination at those agencies.

“In every movement, change starts from the community,” said Rue Landau, the executive director of the Commission on Human Relations. “We want you to know: We heard you, thank you, and the time for change is now.”

The report also issued several recommendations, including that bar owners and staff as well as board members and staff at two city nonprofits receive training on implicit bias and the city’s fair practices rules.

Businesses and nonprofits will be required to display the city’s fair practice ordinance within 30 days and undergo training within the next three months. The commission has also begun testing at bars to determine whether discriminatory practices persist.

The commission will investigate complaints, and businesses or agencies with city contracts found in violation could be subject to remedies including “compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees,” the report stated.

Black and gay activists who protested Gayborhood establishments and attended Monday’s press conference called the report a first step that makes the city accountable to its gay community.

“Now that they’ve stated that they will shut down (organizations) that are not complying in terms of with what is expected … if that does not happen, (we) will be present and we will shut it down ourselves,” said Shani Akilah Robin, founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective. “We will be watching them every step of the way.”


Errin Haines Whack covers urban affairs for The Associated Press. Follow her work at

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on Syria talks that are being held in Kazakhstan and developments on the ground in the war-torn country (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The Trump administration says it is willing to partner with Moscow to combat the Islamic State group.

In his first daily White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that President Donald Trump has been “very clear” that he will “work with any country committed to defeating ISIS.”

He says the administration will work “with Russia or anyone else” to defeat the militant group, either militarily or economically.

The president has vowed to defeat IS “quickly” when he takes office, though he has not provided specifics on his plans for U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had carried out a joint airstrike mission with U.S.-led coalition warplanes against IS in Syria. That claim was immediately denied by the Pentagon


8:30 p.m.

The U.S. says Russia’s claim that its warplanes flew a joint mission over Syria with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group is “rubbish.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday its forces in Syria had received coordinates of IS targets near al-Bab on Sunday “from the U.S. side via hotline with the international coalition headquarters.”

U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, almost immediately labeled the Russian claim as propaganda.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. does have routine “deconfliction” talks with Russia to avoid unintended aerial incidents in Syria’s crowded skies. But Davis says there have been no changes to that arrangement, and the U.S. has insisted for months that it has no coordination or sharing of targets with Russia.


8 p.m.

The Russian military says its warplanes have flown a joint mission in Syria against the Islamic State group together with the U.S.-led coalition.

If confirmed by Washington, the mission would represent the first coordinated action against IS by Russia and the U.S.-led coalition. Russia has pushed for such cooperation in the past, but Barack Obama’s administration had refused.

New U.S. President Donald Trump has called for joint efforts with Russia against IS.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces in Syria had received coordinates of IS targets near al-Bab on Sunday “from the U.S. side via hotline with the international coalition headquarters.”

It said Monday that two Russian warplanes and two aircraft of the U.S.-led coalition then struck the targets, destroying several ammunition and fuel depots along with militants and weapons.

The attack followed a joint raid in the same area flown by Russian and Turkish jets on Saturday.


7 p.m.

A Syrian opposition spokesman says the first day of talks has concluded, after rebel representatives met Russia’s presidential envoy to the talks to discuss ways to reinforce a shaky cease-fire.

Yahya al-Aridi, the spokesman for the rebel delegation to the talks, says the opposition also met Monday with the Russian and Turkish delegations in the presence of the U.N. envoy to Syria to discuss a nationwide cease-fire.

He says the talks are scheduled to conclude Tuesday.

He says the talks with Russian president envoy Alexander Lavrentyev touched on political issues, but the focus was on the cease-fire. He didn’t elaborate.

Russia had previously asked that Jaysh al-Islam, the group to which the lead rebel negotiator belongs, be designated as a “terrorist” group.

Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, and Turkey which backs the opposition, have sponsored the talks and a shaky cease-fire reached on Dec. 30.


6:05 p.m.

Russia’s official news agency says the final document for the talks held in the Kazakh capital is to call on Syria’s rebels to distance themselves from an al-Qaida linked group in Syria.

Tass news agency published the draft communique Monday, on the opening day of talks that brought for the first time government and rebel representatives in the same room. The face-to-face meeting was brief, and was followed by proximity talks mediated by the U.N. The talks are sponsored by Russia and Turkey. Iran, a major ally of the Syrian government, backs the talks.

Tass said the three countries will confirm their determination to jointly fight the Islamic State group and Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaida-affiliate in Syria. Fatah al-Sham works closely with a number of rebel groups in Syria, and has called the meeting a “conspiracy” designed to drive a wedge between the insurgents.


3:20 p.m.

The head of Syria’s rebel delegation at the peace talks in Kazakhstan has called for placing foreign militias fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s army on the list of terrorist organizations.

In a speech at the opening session of talks in Astana Monday, Mohammad Alloush said such groups include Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

He also said Syrian civilians were subject to two forms of terrorism: “The terrorism of Bashar Assad or the terrorism of Daesh,” in reference to the Islamic State group.

A video of his speech was leaked by opposition delegates inside the meeting and obtained by The Associated Press.

Alloush also reiterated the call for consolidating a Russian-backed ceasefire agreement announced late last month. Syria’s government envoy later slammed the speech as “provocative” and “insolent.”


2:50 p.m.

A Syrian Cabinet minister in charge of national reconciliation says the peace conference that began Monday in Kazakhstan is a “juncture to test intentions” on the cessation of hostilities and the possibility that some rebel groups may join the Syrian army in fighting extremists.

National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar told The Associated Press on Monday that although Turkey is a sponsor of the talks, Ankara “still has a long way to prove its intentions” because it is still backing Syrian rebels.

Haidar said that last month’s capture of rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo and achievements in other parts of Syria paved the way for more reconciliation. He was referring to areas where rebels decided to stop fighting in return for an amnesty or to move to other rebel-held areas.


2:40 p.m.

The United Nations envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura is calling on participants in talks between Syria’s warring sides to agree on mechanisms to implement a nationwide truce.

De Mistura says the talks in Kazakhstan, if successful in consolidating the current cease-fire, can pave the way for direct talks between the different Syrian parties in Geneva next month. Speaking on the first day of the talks Monday, De Mistura says finding ways to build confidence between the Syrian government and its armed opposition will also improve the fight against terrorist groups, who are excluded from a cease-fire reached on Dec. 30.


2:30 p.m.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says six Russian long-ranger bombers have struck Islamic State group positions in eastern Syria.

The ministry said in a statement on Monday that the Tu-22m3 bombers took off from an air base in Russia and conducted air strikes around the city of Deir el-Zour, targeting the militants’ command posts and ammunition depots.

The ministry said fighter jets from a Russian air base in the government-controlled part of Syria provided cover for the bombers.

The raid came as Syrian government troops in Deir el-Zour find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation, cut in half in an ongoing IS offensive against the last remaining pockets of government control. The Islamic State group is excluded from the shaky cease-fire currently in place in Syria.


1:15 p.m.

The head of Syria’s rebel delegation at the peace talks in Kazakhstan says the opposition is “ready to go to the ends of the earth” to end the bloodshed in Syria.

Mohammad Alloush told reporters on Monday, after an hour of indirect talks with government representatives in Astana that the rebels “are men of peace, and at the same time knights of war.”

Alloush is a political officer for the powerful Army of Islam faction fighting mostly around Damascus.

He attacked President Bashar Assad’s rule, calling it a “terror” state and said only after the cease-fire becomes a “reality on the ground” can the two sides move on to political talks.

He says the Syrian opposition will also insist at the talks in Astana on the resumption of aid deliveries and other humanitarian demands.


1 p.m.

Syria’s government envoy at the peace talks in Astana has denounced as “provocative” and “insolent” a speech delivered by the head of the rebel factions attending the gathering in Kazakhstan.

Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, says rebel leader Mohammad Alloush’s speech in Astana did not rise to the level of the gathering of diplomats attending the conference.

Ja’afari in remarks to reporters in Astana repeatedly referred to the rebel delegation as representatives of “terrorist armed groups.” He also said that the agenda for the talks, which are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, is “not ready yet.”

The harsh and uncompromising tone of Ja’afari’s remarks was a bad omen for the talks, which had barely started with an opening ceremony and speeches by various representatives.


12:40 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the U.N. envoy for Syria is mediating between the representatives of the Damascus government and the rebel factions at the talks underway in Kazakhstan.

Lavrov said at a news conference on Monday in Moscow that Russia is “glad these talks started today, despite predictions and attempts to hamper” them.

He says the U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, will have the support of the Iranian delegation in contacts with Syrian government representatives while the Turkish delegation will be helping de Mistura reach out to the rebels attending the talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

After the opening ceremony in which the Syrian rebels and the government delegation sat across from one another at a round table, the talks went into a closed session.

There was no indication if rebels and government officials would be talking face-to-face behind closed doors but Lavrov’s remarks indicated that part of the gathering is more similar to proximity talks, with de Mistura shuttling between the two sides.


11 a.m.

Iran says that preserving a tenuous cease-fire in Syria will be “the most important issue” in talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Kazakhstan.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi says Iran is hopeful that the talks held Monday and Tuesday can shore up the cease-fire and pave the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

He suggested that discussions over a larger political settlement would have to wait, saying: “Let’s wait and see how the process can be continued based on conclusions that will be announced Tuesday.”

The talks, organized by Russia and Turkey, are the latest attempt to halt the nearly six-year conflict. Russia and Iran are the main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while Turkey supports the armed opposition trying to topple him.

The two sides have traded blame for repeated violations of the Dec. 30 cease-fire, which was also brokered by Russia and Turkey.


10:10 a.m.

Russia- and Turkey-backed talks between Syrian rebel factions and government representatives have opened in Kazakhstan.

The talks are the first between the two warring sides in a year and mark the first face-to-face meeting between government representatives and a delegation heavily made up of rebels.

Representatives of Syria’s rebel factions sat on one side of a room at the luxury Rixos Hotel in the capital, Astana, while government delegates sat on the other side.

The talks are expected to focus on consolidating a shaky cease-fire that has been in place since Dec. 30.


9:30 a.m.

Talks between Syrian rebel factions and the government they are trying to overthrow are set to begin in Kazakhstan.

Monday’s meeting will be the first between Syria’s warring sides in a year and is expected to focus on consolidating a shaky cease-fire that has been in place since Dec. 30.

The talks are sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran whose representatives in the Kazakh capital of Astana have held meetings with delegates from both sides late into the evening Sunday and early on Monday.

The opposition delegation, which arrived in Astana on Sunday, is made up of about a dozen rebel figures led by Mohammad Alloush of the powerful Army of Islam rebel group.

The Syrian government has sent its U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, and military delegates.