Ankara, Feb 13 (AFP) The Syrian government and rebels have swapped prisoners as part of a peace process brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the Turkish government said.

“Many people who had been detained by rebel groups and by the Syrian regime have been freed” in a reciprocal and simultaneous move, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said each side had released 20 prisoners, with 11 women among those freed by the Syrian regime.

Russia, Iran and Turkey are working to bring about peace in Syria under what is known as the Astana process.

Each country plays a key role in the conflict that started in March 2011 and has left more than 360,000 dead and displaced millions more.

Russia and Iran have intervened on the side of Syria’s government, ensuring its survival, while Turkey supports rebel groups in northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds establishing and expanding territory along its border.

All of them say they are fighting Islamic State fighters and other jihadists in the northern regions.

The Astana process has gradually come to eclipse a UN-sponsored negotiations framework known as the Geneva process whose participants include the United States and European powers that would be key donors in an international post-conflict reconstruction programme for Syria.

Tuesday’s prisoner swap took place near the city of Al-Bab, in Aleppo province northwest Syria. AFP

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.