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Suspended Syrian Peace Talks to Resume Next Week

  • Lisa Schlein

U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R) arrives for a news conference on the Syrian peace talks outside President Wilson hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 3, 2016.

U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R) arrives for a news conference on the Syrian peace talks outside President Wilson hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 3, 2016.

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria reported the cessation of hostilities in Syria is largely holding, so political talks aimed at ending the five-year-long civil war will be resumed next week as planned.

Staffan de Mistura said the the truce has now lasted for six days, noting it is one of the longest periods of relative calm in Syria's five years of war.

He said the level of violence has been greatly reduced, and that the cessation of hostilities agreement is generally holding, which is good news for many Syrian people.

“Unfortunately, we have to admit, like in every cessation of hostility or cease-fire and, in particular, in this one, there are still a number of places where fighting has continued, including parts of Hama, Homs, Latakia, and Damascus. But, they have been contained,” de Mistura said.

The special envoy said U.N. personnel are closely monitoring what is happening on the ground. When a potentially hostile and violent situation is identified, he said they quickly jump in to get the warring parties to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand.

“The situation, therefore, could be summarized as fragile. Success is not guaranteed, but progress has been visible. Ask the Syrians. We are committed… to make it work and, of course, that is the hope of everyone,” he said.

De Mistura said the peace talks, which were abruptly suspended on February 3, will resume on March 9. Since government and opposition representatives refuse to meet face-to-face, he said he will conduct proximity talks, as before. He said this allows a lot of flexibility, so not all of the delegations need to be present at the opening session. He said he will stagger the days of arrival of the various groups.

U.N. officials say the cessation of hostilities agreement has made it possible for U.N. and partner agencies to deliver food, medicine and other aid to 115,000 Syrian civilians living in areas under siege by government or opposition forces. They say last year, aid agencies were unable to access any of these areas.

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