Syria talks to resume in March if truce 'largely holds'

The United Nations special envoy for Syria said Friday he plans to resume peace talks on March 7 if a cessation of hostilities negotiated by the United States and Russia that began at midnight local time "largely holds.

See Full Article

"

Staffan de Mistura briefed the UN Security Council via videoconference from Geneva following a meeting of envoys from the 17-member International Syria Support Group, which is supposed to monitor implementation of the agreement.

"This will remain a complicated, painstaking process," he told the council. But he added that "nothing is impossible, especially at this moment."

De Mistura, however, warned he had "no doubt there will be no shortage of attempts to undermine this process."

Shortly after de Mistura's briefing, the 15-member council voted unanimously to approve a resolution endorsing the ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire began shortly afterward.

If the cessation of hostilities holds, it would mark the first time international negotiations have managed to achieve a pause in Syria's civil war, which shortly will enter its sixth year.

Even as council members spoke in support of the agreement, strains showed. Russia warned against "the harmful practice of providing external support to armed groups."

And British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said "Russia must turn words into actions" and use its influence on its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad: "If they don't, we will falter again."

According to a draft obtained by The Associated Press, the resolution urges the UN secretary-general to resume the peace talks "as soon as possible."

It also expresses support for an international working group whose task is to "accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid," with the goal of sustained and unimpeded aid access to all parts of Syria.

That includes areas where hundreds of thousands of people find themselves besieged, most of them by Syrian government forces or the Islamic State group.

For the cease-fire to succeed, multiple armed factions will have to adhere to its terms.

The Syrian government and a leading opposition bloc have agreed to the cessation of hostilities, but the accord excludes UN-designated terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Nusra Front, which hold swaths of Syrian territory.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that the cessation of hostilities will not in itself ensure that a political solution in Syria is reached. But she said the "vast majority" of the opposition is ready to co-operate with the ceasefire.

"Let us be real. It's going to be extremely challenging, especially at the outset, to make this work," Power said.

In Washington, U.S. State Department Mark Toner expressed confidence in the cessation of hostilities, pointing out that the opposition's High Negotiations Committee and Syrian Democratic Forces, and the vast majority of its armed groups, have accepted the terms.

But Toner called it "put up or shut up" time for Russia to prove its seriousness about ending the fighting and starting a political transition.

Russia sounded a positive note at the Security Council meeting.

"We now have a real chance to end the violence," said Russian deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov, who acknowledged that the process will be "difficult and complex."

But warplanes on Friday continued to launch airstrikes against rebel-held positions in the suburbs of the Syrian capital and near the northern city of Aleppo. A spokesman for the UN secretary-general acknowledged "an increase of military activity across the board in Syria" in the hours leading up to the ceasefire.

"It's tragic but unfortunately not surprising," Stephane Dujarric said, adding: "The only thing that is required is for people to take their fingers off the trigger."

Ukraine's Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko warned that some of Russia's actions in Syria mirrored its behaviour in his country, but he said his country supported the new resolution because of the urgent nature of the crisis.

"This time, there will be no room for political manoeuvres or excuses," Yelchenko said.

Keaten reported from Geneva. Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper in Washington and Cara Anna in New York contributed



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • British Airways flights out of London grounded by computer outage

    World News CBC News
    British Airways cancelled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a "major IT systems failure" around the world. Source
  • Global computer outage grounds British Airways Heathrow, Gatwick flights

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — British Airways cancelled all flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a “major IT systems failure” around the world. Source
  • More arrests in Manchester bombing as U.K. lowers threat level

    World News Toronto Sun
    MANCHESTER, England — Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from “critical” to “severe,” as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are expected. Prime Minister Theresa May said “a significant amount of police activity” and several arrests had led to the level being lowered. Source
  • ISIS claims responsibility for deadly attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt

    World News Toronto Sun
    MINYA, Egypt — The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack on a bus carrying Christians on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, which killed 29. Egypt responded to Friday’s attack by launching a series of airstrikes that targeted what it said were militant bases in eastern Libya in which the assailants were trained. Source
  • 100 dead, 99 missing in Sri Lankan mudslides [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    AGALAWATTE, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s military said Saturday that it is doubtful any missing people will be found alive two days after torrents of mud triggered by heavy rain covered homes in southern and western parts of the country, killing 100 people and leaving 99 others missing. Source
  • Police on scene as London's Old Vic evacuated during performance

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, England -- The Latest on the concert bombing in Manchester, England (all times local): 3:15 p.m. Hundreds of people have been evacuated London's Old Vic Theatre during a performance and police say they are on the scene. Source
  • Anti-Muslim slurs lead to triple stabbing on Portland train

    World News CBC News
    Two men were killed and a third injured in a knife attack after they tried to stop what police are describing as a hate speech incident in Portland, Oregon. The knife attack happened aboard a commuter train that had pulled into the city's Hollywood transit station around 4:30 p.m. Source
  • G7 summit ends without unanimity on climate deal

    World News CTV News
    A summit of the leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies has ended without a unanimous agreement on climate change, as the Trump administration plans to take more time to say whether the U.S. is going to remain in the Paris climate deal. Source
  • Trump makes G7 deal on trade, takes rain check on climate

    World News CTV News
    TAORMINA, Italy -- Seven wealthy democracies ended their summit Saturday in Italy without unanimous agreement on climate change, as the Trump administration plans to take more time to say whether the U.S. is going to remain in the Paris accord on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Source
  • Lotto Max jackpot grows to $55 million

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $50 million jackpot in Friday night’s Lotto Max draw. There were also two Maxmillions prizes of $1 million each up for grabs, and one of them was claimed by a ticket holder in British Columbia. Source