Syrian rebels have opted to "freeze" planned peace talks with government forces in Kazakhstan later this month after "many and large violations" of a current ceasefire. The Turkey and Russia-brokered peace talks are due to be held in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

However, rebel groups operating under the umbrella of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) say they are suspending their participation in the talks because of violations of a ceasefire deal that has largely held since it came into force last Thursday.

"The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations," said a statement signed by a number of mainly moderate rebel groups on 2 January and seen by Reuters. "As these violations are continuing, the rebel factions announce... the freezing of all discussion linked to the Astana negotiations".

The statement points at skirmishes in the rebel-held region of Wadi Barada, near Damascus, which rebels warned on 31 December was still under attack. The Syrian Army has denied the allegations of attacks on the strategic route to Lebanon.

The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution to support Russia and Turkey's efforts to put in place peace negotiations. The resolution, drafted by Russia, was adopted unanimously by the 15-member council at a meeting in New York on Saturday (31 December).

The ceasefire, one of many to come into force in the past year, came into effect on 30 December and does not include rebel groups, such as Islamic State (Isis), Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), or the Kurdish YPG.

The Russian defence ministry says seven "moderate opposition formations" were included in the truce. They were named as Faylaq al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Thuwwar Ahl al-Sham, Jaysh al-Mujahidin, Jaysh Idlib and Jabhah al-Shamiya.

According to the BBC, Ahrar al-Sham have stated that they have "reservations" about the peace deal, while the al-Qaeda linked JFS said it would continue to fight president Bashar al-Assad.

The FSA said the deal would not include the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) which are fighting in the north of the country with mainly Isis militants. The YPG is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey and has claimed that Turkish forces have targeted them in Syria in the past.

Former rebel-held Ansari district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 23 December 2016, after Syrian government forces retook control of the whole embattled city George Ourfalian/AFP