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Diplomat: Syria Ready to Resume Peace Talks Without 'Preconditions'

  • VOA News

FILE - UN special envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy.

FILE - UN special envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy.

The Syrian government says it is ready to resume United Nations-sponsored peace talks with the opposition in Geneva at the end of August, "without preconditions without any external interference."

Sunday's announcement, reported by Syria's state news agency, followed talks in Damascus between U.N. special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy and Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad.

Mikdad did not offer details, and it remained unclear late Sunday whether the talks yielded progress on the impasse over the future of embattled President Bashar al-Assad -- an impasse that helped scuttle two earlier rounds of talks.

Western governments have insisted that Assad leave the presidency as part of any enduring peace deal, while Assad allies, most notably Russia, are battling alongside Syrian forces to preserve Assad's hold on power.

Two weeks of peace talks in April and an earlier truce crumbled when no deal on Assad's future could be reached, and when fighters on both sides of the country's deadly civil war largely ignored cease-fires.

The failed April talks also led the chief peace negotiator for Syria's mainstream opposition, Mohammed Alloush, to quit his post weeks later. Alloush linked his departure to ongoing violence, which he blamed on the Assad government and Assad's Russian military allies.

Monitors cite gains by U.S.-backed forces near Turkish border

In other developments, the Britain-based London Observatory for Human Rights says U.S.-backed forces have driven Islamic State extremists from 70 percent of the besieged city of Manbij near the Turkish border.

FILE - Smoke and flame rise after what fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) said were U.S.-led air strikes on the mills of Manbij where Islamic State militants are positioned, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, June 16, 2016.

FILE - Smoke and flame rise after what fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) said were U.S.-led air strikes on the mills of Manbij where Islamic State militants are positioned, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, June 16, 2016.

An Observatory statement Sunday said the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces had seized most of the eastern city, and says an estimated 2,300 civilians have been able to flee in the past 24 hours.

U.S. analysts describe Manbij, located about half way between war-ravaged Aleppo and the border town of Kobane, as one of the most important pieces of real estate in the war. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has called it a pivotal corridor from the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa to the outside world through Turkey.

The monitor also quotes activists and residents who have reported dozens of civilian deaths from airstrikes linked to the U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish fighters and Arab allies. The alliance, backed by U.S. Special Forces, launched a campaign in June to drive Islamic State fighters from their last positions on the Syrian-Turkish frontier.

Aid workers report hospital bombing in south

Separately, the International Rescue Committee said airstrikes targeted a hospital in the southern opposition-controlled town of Dara'a, killing at least six people. The reports offered few details, and the identity of the aircraft was not clear late Sunday.

However, the New York-based Physicians for Human Rights says more than 90 percent of attacks on medical facilities in Syria have been carried out by government forces.

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