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UN Envoy: Restarting Syrian Peace Talks Hinges on US-Russian Talks

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - United Nations special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura (right) attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, May 17, 2016.

FILE - United Nations special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura (right) attends a news conference in Vienna, Austria, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, May 17, 2016.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says a resumption of the stalled intra-Syrian peace talks is likely to hinge on the outcome of bilateral talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, scheduled for Friday.

The United Nations is aiming to get a third round of Syrian peace talks under way by the end of this month. Two previous rounds have ended in failure.

As this deadline nears, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura makes no effort to disguise his concern regarding the possible outcome of the meeting between the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers.

“Those meetings that are taking place outside this office here in Geneva are going to have an impact certainly on the way we will be, and I plan to present what are the political initiatives of the United Nations in order to relaunch the political process on Syria,” de Mistura said.

More than five years of civil war in Syria reportedly have caused the direct or indirect deaths of nearly one-half million people. It has displaced around 11 million people, triggering the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.

While there is still some question if the peace talks are on track, de Mistura is repeating his appeal for a 48-hour humanitarian pause in the beleaguered Syrian city of Aleppo.

The U.N. envoy says it is critical the warring parties stop fighting so U.N. aid convoys can reach some 2 million people trapped in Aleppo. He says getting essential supplies into the city will help the political process.

“That is why we are very much focused in maintaining our line. We want a pause for 48 hours ,” de Mistura said. "The Russian Federation replied, 'Yes.' We will wait for others to do the same, but we are ready. Trucks are ready and they can leave anytime we get that message.”

U.N. officials say they would like to have a 48-hour pause every week. This, they say, would allow them to send two convoys of 20 trucks each containing enough food for 80,000 people in rebel held east Aleppo. They say simultaneous distributions would take place in government-held west Aleppo.

They note weekly pauses also would allow technicians to repair an electrical plant in southern Aleppo that serves 1.8 million people and a pumping station that provides water to east and west Aleppo.

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