Date
28 July 2017
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura wants a ceasefire before agreeing to resume peace talks on Syria. Government troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, have advanced north of Aleppo, cutting opposition supply lines. Photo: Reuters
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura wants a ceasefire before agreeing to resume peace talks on Syria. Government troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, have advanced north of Aleppo, cutting opposition supply lines. Photo: Reuters

UN suspends Syria peace talks

A United Nations-led effort to end the Syrian civil war has been suspended after government troops, backed by Russian air strikes, advanced against rebel forces.

The army push north of Aleppo choked opposition supply lines from Turkey, Reuters reports.

That prompted Staffan de Mistura, a UN official leading the first attempt in two years to negotiate an end to the war, to halt peace talks in Geneva.

He called for the rival sides’ principal backers — the United States and Russia — to intervene.

“I have indicated from the first day that I won’t talk for the sake of talking,” De Mistura said.

Washington and Moscow’s support for opposite sides in the five-year-old war, which has embroiled regional states, created millions of refugees and enabled the rise of Islamic State, means a local conflict has become an increasingly fraught global standoff.

De Mistura has said a ceasefire is essential but Russia refused to suspend its air strikes.

They helped government forces end a three-and-a-half year siege of the Shi’ite towns of Nubul and al-Zahraa on Wednesday, a step toward recapturing all of Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the war.

“I don’t see why these air strikes should be stopped,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, adding they were targeting al Qaeda-linked rebels.

Opposition delegation co-ordinator Riad Hijab said there would be no ceasefire until a transition without President Bashar al-Assad was in place.

Moscow accuses Washington, which is backing opponents of Assad, of supporting terrorists while the US State Department said the air strikes around Aleppo focused mainly on Assad’s foes rather than the Islamic State militants Russia says it is trying to defeat.

The United Nations said it had been told hundreds of families had been uprooted following “an unprecedented frequency” of air strikes in the past two days.

Three aid workers were among the dead.

De Mistura had formally opened the peace talks on Friday but both sides denied they had ever begun.

He suspended  the talks until Feb. 25 after meeting the opposition.

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CG/RA

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