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

  • Trump jokingly threatens to fire Price if health vote fails

    World News CTV News
    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday jokingly threatened during a speech to thousands of Boy Scouts to fire his health secretary if a crucial vote to repeal "Obamacare" fails. During a speech unlike any most of the crowd had heard at a Scout function before, Trump mixed a traditional message to Scouts of encouragement about loyalty, service to others and never giving up, with mentions of fake news, former President Barack Obama, a replay of how Trump won the election, fake…
  • Cops rescue two atop Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Bridge

    World News Toronto Sun
    PHILADELPHIA — Two people are under arrest after police rescued them from atop Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge. Police say the men climbed one of the bridge’s 382-foot (116 metres) towers to spray paint it with graffiti when they got stuck around 1 a.m. Source
  • Mexican officials: At least 25 people in truck were Mexican

    World News CTV News
    SAN ANTONIO -- The tractor-trailer was pitch-black inside, crammed with maybe 90 immigrants or more, and already hot when it left the Texas border town of Laredo for the 150-mile trip north to San Antonio. Source
  • Survivor recalls horrific scene inside tractor-trailer in Texas human smuggling case

    World News CBC News
    The tractor-trailer was pitch-black inside, crammed with maybe 90 immigrants or more, and already hot when it left the Texas border town of Laredo for the 240-kilometre trip north to San Antonio. It wasn't long before the passengers, sweating profusely in the rising oven-like heat, started crying and pleading for water. Source
  • Woman 'slapped' squad car before Minnesota policeman Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond

    World News Toronto Sun
    MINNEAPOLIS — A woman approached the back of a Minneapolis police car and “slapped” it shortly before an Australian woman was shot and killed by an officer, according to a search warrant filed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Source
  • Convicted serial killer faces nurses' college professional misconduct hearing

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A convicted serial killing nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care faces a professional college disciplinary hearing today. The College of Nurses of Ontario alleges Elizabeth Wettlaufer committed professional misconduct when she overdosed 14 patients with the intent to harm or kill them. Source
  • Deal reached to save 18 alleged Ontario fighting dogs from death row

    Canada News CBC News
    Eighteen alleged fighting dogs that were facing a potential death sentence in Ontario will be sent to the U.S. for rehabilitation after a months-long negotiation to save their lives. 21 alleged fighting dogs from Chatham could have new owner Source
  • Preparations underway to welcome more B.C. wildfire evacuees home

    Canada News CTV News
    KAMLOOPS, B.C. -- The mayor of Williams Lake, B.C., says the city is ready to welcome thousands of residents home, as soon as fire officials give the okay. About 10,000 residents of the Interior city were forced to leave more than a week ago when flames from several wildfires threatened to cut highway access. Source
  • Israel dismantles metal detectors at Jerusalem holy site

    World News CBC News
    Israel has dismantled metal detectors it installed a week ago at a contested Jerusalem shrine, hoping to defuse a crisis with the Muslim world, including security ally Jordan, the Muslim custodian of the holy site. Source
  • Kushner returns to Capitol Hill for 2nd day of interviews

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner will return to Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of private meetings with congressional investigators, this time for a closed-door conversation with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee. Source