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UN: Cease-fire Needed So Syrian Peace Talks Can Resume

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - United Nations Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 17, 2016.

FILE - United Nations Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 17, 2016.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said no date for the resumption of suspended intra-Syrian peace talks will be fixed until the warring parties agree to a cessation of hostilities and allow humanitarian aid to enter besieged areas.

The U.N. mediator said he is in a hurry to re-start the Syria peace talks that were suspended at the end of April. But he said it will not happen until certain conditions are met.

“If we do not have the atmosphere conducive for increasing the cessation of hostilities tenure… and we do not get what we have been asking and everyone has been asking — a substantial improvement of humanitarian access, then the credibility of the next round of talks would be in question," he said. "And, I do not want to expose that. Therefore, I am not going to give you a date — yet.”

The Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee walked out of the last round of talks in Geneva because of the government’s repeated violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement. It vows not to return to the negotiating table until the fighting stops.

U.N. envoy de Mistura estimates some 400,000 people have been killed in the five-year conflict. Given the high toll, he pledges he will never abandon the talks because they are the only avenue for a political solution.

On a related issue, he and his special adviser, Jan Egeland, are giving the warring factions a deadline of June 1 to allow humanitarian aid to reach all besieged areas. Otherwise, they say they will be forced to air drop supplies to the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in these places.

Egeland calls airdrops a measure of last resort given the cost and the technical and logistical difficulties of mounting such operations.

“We do believe that the option of airdrops will actually make it possible for us to go by land in the next weeks," he said. "… I do not think anybody wants airdrops really. So, that would enable us to go by land.”

The two U.N. officials are calling on the Russians, Americans, Iranians and Saudis to use their influence to pressure the Syrian government and various warring factions to cease hostilities, allow food to reach the thousands of starving civilians and give peace a chance.

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