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Spike in Fighting Puts Syrian Peace Talks, Aid at Risk

  • Lisa Schlein

A damaged tent for displaced people is pictured after airstrikes on the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Atareb in Aleppo province, Syria, Aug. 4, 2016.

A damaged tent for displaced people is pictured after airstrikes on the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Atareb in Aleppo province, Syria, Aug. 4, 2016.

Senior U.N. officials warned Thursday that plans to resume intra-Syrian peace negotiations this month were at risk because of escalating fighting between government and rebel forces.

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, the U.N.'s deputy special envoy for Syria, said the world body was absolutely committed to bringing the warring parties back to the negotiating table toward the end of the month.

However, "for these talks to be fruitful, I think the cessation of hostilities has to stand, has to be reinforced," Ramzy told reporters in Geneva, adding that the United States and Russia, "as co-chairs, are in discussion on that particular issue. But also, the humanitarian situation has to improve. ... Not much has been accomplished over the past month, largely due to the intensification of military activities.”

The Syrian civil war has lasted more than five years and resulted in more than 300,000 deaths. The United Nations says only a political solution can end the bloody conflict.

U.N. officials had hoped to deliver humanitarian aid to 1.2 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas affected by conflict in July, but the effort fell far short.

“It is heartbreaking, really, for humanitarian workers that are ready with supplies, with trucks, with people who are willing to risk a lot to go to places, that we were prevented from reaching 60 percent" of the targeted population in need, said U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Jan Egland.

Damaged vehicles sit on the damaged roof of a car service center in the Ramousah area southwest of Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 2, 2016.

Damaged vehicles sit on the damaged roof of a car service center in the Ramousah area southwest of Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 2, 2016.

Crisis in Aleppo

The United Nations describes the situation in Aleppo as particularly desperate. More than 300,000 civilians have been cut off from food and other relief supplies for the past three weeks, as Syrian government forces have tightened their grip on the eastern rebel-held section of the city.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for a 48-hour humanitarian pause to allow aid to reach the beleaguered population. Egeland said intensive diplomatic activity was going on to enable such an operation, and that U.N. aid agencies were ready to go into Aleppo as soon as a pause occurs.

Egeland said it would be best to establish a two-way corridor — one route by which people could voluntarily leave Aleppo and one by which aid could enter the besieged city.

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