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UN envoy urges US, Russia to salvage Syria talks

A recent spike in violence threatens the country's fragile ceasefire [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2016

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Syria's fragile truce could collapse if the US and Russia do not intervene to salvage peace talks that have come to a halt, the UN's envoy to Syria has said.

The UN envoy to Syria on Wednesday appealed to the US and Russia to intervene to help revive Syrian peace talks that have come to a halt, saying a recent spike in fighting has overshadowed the discussions and put an increasingly feeble truce in "great danger".

Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council via video conference about the largely stalled indirect talks between the regime and the opposition.

De Mistura said he hoped that the talks would resume in May and predicted the overall process would continue as previously planned through July.

But he stopped short of setting a specific date, pointing to recent upsurge in fighting, notably in and around the northern city of Aleppo.

De Mistura lamented the worsening violence, saying that "in the last 48 hours, we have had an average of one Syrian killed every 25 minutes, one Syrian wounded every 13 minutes... How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?"

In the last 48 hours, we have had an average of one Syrian killed every 25 minutes

Speaking at the end of a third session of Syria peace talks this year, de Mistura said a truce brokered by the US and Russia had pulled off a "miracle" by sharply reducing violence in March, but acknowledged that the renewed fighting has put the truce "in great danger."

 

He called for a "US-Russian initiative at the highest level" to help reinforce it.

"There is no reason that both of them – who have been putting so much political capital in that success story and have a common interest in not seeing Syria ending up in another cycle of war – should not be able to revitalise what they created, and which is still alive, but barely," he said of the two countries.

Peace talks foundered last week after the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee suspended formal participation in the indirect talks with Bashar al-Assad's envoys to protest government ceasefire violations, a drop in humanitarian aid deliveries and no progress in winning the release of detainees in Syria.

De Mistura suggested back-channel work between Moscow and Washington was already under way to help the truce, and that a revival of it would help bring the two sides back to the table.

"I know that both the Russian Federation and the United States are talking among themselves on how to salvage on what has been actually a remarkable success – but needs to be sustained," he said, referring to the ceasefire.

If it is revived, he predicted: "It will not be difficult for everyone to come back around the table."

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