UN envoy announces 'temporary pause' to Syria peace talks

GENEVA -- The UN envoy for Syria on Wednesday announced a "temporary pause" in peace talks in Geneva just two days after they officially began amid intensified fighting, saying the process will resume later this month.

See Full Article

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with opposition leaders, Staffan de Mistura insisted "this is not the end, and it is not the failure of the talks."

De Mistura said both sides were "interested in having the political process started," and that he had set a new date of Feb. 25 for the resumption of the talks.

The announcement comes just two days after de Mistura opened the first talks in two years aimed at ending a five-year war that has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced an estimated 11 million.

Syrian forces backed by Russian airstrikes have advanced in northern Syria in recent days, leading the opposition to accuse Damascus of negotiating in bad faith.

On Wednesday, the troops blasted their way into two Shiite villages in northern Syria, breaking a long-running rebel siege during a major offensive, Syrian TV reported.

The two villages, Nubl and Zahra, are located in the middle of opposition territory. They have been blockaded by rebel groups for around three years, with the army occasionally airdropping food and other aid.

Their capture would mark a major victory for government forces, which have made significant advances in Aleppo province in the past few days, severing a key supply route linking rebels in Aleppo city to the Turkish border.

Pro-government forces are continuing an offensive north of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, in an attempt to besiege rebel-held neighbourhoods. If the government succeeds, it will be one of the biggest blows to the insurgents since they captured large parts of the city in the summer of 2012.

The Aleppo advances cast a further shadow over the talks.

Basma Kodmani, a member of the opposition's negotiating team, described the offensive as a "horrible development," saying it sends the message that "there is nothing to negotiate. Just go home."

Syrian TV said the siege of Nubl and Zahra was broken by the army and Shiite militias known as the Popular Defence Committees. The Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV also reported the advance and showed exclusive footage of the fighting on the outskirts of the villages.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that monitors the conflict through activists on the ground, said the Syrian army was one kilometre (mile) away from the two villages.

Meanwhile, an aid convoy headed to a besieged rebel-held town near Damascus, but Syria's opposition said that such deliveries are meaningless given the situation in Aleppo.

The convoy heading to Moadamiyeh is the second aid delivery to rebel-held areas near the capital in as many days, a spokesman for the International Committee for the Red Cross said. Pawel Krzysiek told The Associated Press that 12 trucks carrying food, medicine and medical equipment were expected to arrive later in the day.

By late afternoon, Krzysiek said the convoy is "about to enter." He posted a photograph on his Twitter account showing hundreds of people gathered at a distance waiting for the supplies to reach them.

The humanitarian situation in the town worsened toward the end of last year after the government choked off the last access point. Opposition activists and residents say there are dozens of cases of severe malnutrition in Moadamiyeh.

The aid delivery appears to be a confidence-building gesture on the part of the government the Geneva talks got off to a rocky start.

The Syrian opposition had demanded that aid be allowed into 18 besieged areas throughout the country and that Syrian and Russian forces halt the bombardment of rebel-held areas ahead of the talks, which officially began Monday.

Kodmani called the latest aid delivery a "positive development," but said "it is way below what we are hoping to see happen."

On Wednesday afternoon, Riad Hijab -- a former Syrian prime minister who now heads the High Negotiations Committee, the largest opposition bloc -- arrived in Geneva to be closer to the talks.

Shortly after he arrived, de Mistura arrived at the hotel where the opposition is staying and went into a meeting with them.

Syrian opposition figure George Sabra told AP earlier in the day that after Hijab's arrival the opposition will hold meetings on whether to drop out of the indirect peace talks.

"We should take a decision in the coming two days," Sabra said.

De Mistura has shuttled between the government and opposition delegations in Geneva. On Monday, he formally declared the start of what he calls "proximity talks" between the two sides, which would have the two delegations seated in separate rooms.

The talks are aimed at ending a war that has killed 250,000 people, displaced millions and left much of the country in ruins. The last round of talks broke down in 2014.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Smoker arrested after yelling death threats on plane

    World News CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Officials say a woman caught trying to smoke on a Southwest flight has been arrested after shouting she was going to kill everyone on the plane. Sacramento County sheriff's spokesman Shaun Hampton said Monday that 24-year-old Valerie Curbelo was arrested on the tarmac when the plane landed Saturday. Source
  • Toronto library board revising room-booking policy after controversial memorial

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - The Toronto Public Library board voted Monday evening in favour of changing its rental policy following a controversial memorial at a west-end branch this summer. The memorial was held in July for Barbara Kulaszka, a lawyer whose clients included Marc Lemire, the leader of the now-disbanded white supremacy group Heritage Front. Source
  • Alabama foes make final push before big Senate vote

    World News CTV News
    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Facing voters at last after the year's most bitter U.S. campaign, Alabama Republican Roy Moore cast himself Monday as the victim of a national barrage of unjust allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers. Source
  • Six-year-old boy's quick thinking helps save diabetic mother's life

    Canada News CTV News
    A vigilant six-year-old boy is being heralded by his community with a “Citizen Life-Saving Award” for quick-thinking that helped save his mother’s life. Denise McCormack was at home with her son Ronan Male when she slipped into a diabetic coma in May. Source
  • Alabama foes get in final licks before Tuesday's big vote

    World News CBC News
    Facing voters after the year's most bitter U.S. campaign, Alabama Republican Roy Moore cast himself Monday as the victim of a national barrage of unjust allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers. Rival Doug Jones, hoping to become the state's first Democratic senator in two decades, declared their race was Alabama's referendum on "who we are and what we're going to tell our daughters. Source
  • Republican Moore embraces Trump message on eve of Alabama election

    World News CBC News
    Facing voters after the year's most bitter U.S. campaign, Alabama Republican Roy Moore cast himself Monday as the victim of a national barrage of unjust allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers. Rival Doug Jones, hoping to become the state's first Democratic senator in two decades, declared their race was Alabama's referendum on "who we are and what we're going to tell our daughters. Source
  • New Yorker fires reporter Ryan Lizza over alleged sexual misconduct

    World News CBC News
    The New Yorker magazine said Monday it has cut ties with well-known political reporter Ryan Lizza for alleged sexual misconduct. The magazine recently learned Lizza had "engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct," a spokeswoman said. Source
  • Mexican journalist in U.S. fears he'll be killed if deported

    World News CTV News
    HOUSTON -- Advocates for a Mexican journalist detained in a remote West Texas facility asked the U.S. government on Monday to grant him asylum instead of deporting him to a country where he believes he'll be killed. Source
  • N.L. man who attacked girlfriend with coat hanger gets discharge

    Canada News CTV News
    A 20-year-old man who was found guilty of attacking his ex-girlfriend has been granted a discharge after his lawyer argued a criminal record would “hamper his plans” for the future. Judge Lori Marshall granted Lancelot Saunders an absolute discharge after Saunders’s lawyer said the man had plans to attend Memorial University. Source
  • Edmonton boy, 6, awarded for quick thinking that saved his mother's life

    Canada News CBC News
    When six-year-old Ronan Male saw his mother collapse in their Edmonton home last spring, he knew exactly what to do. Denise McCormack has managed her diabetes for 30 years. That night, her blood sugars fell dangerously low and she fell out of bed. Source