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Syria: stakeholders surprised by halt in talks

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By Euronews  with Reuters, AFP, APTN
Syria: stakeholders surprised by halt in talks

<p><p></p> <ul> <li><strong>Diplomatic dueling follows halt in talks</strong></li> <li><strong>Talks torpedoed by ongoing fighting</strong></li> <li><strong>Negotiations set to resume Feb 25</strong></li> </ul> </p> <h3><strong>The news</strong></h3> <p> <p>Diplomats and opposition members say they were taken by surprised when the UN Special Envoy unexpectedly called a halt to peace talks in Geneva.</p> <p>Staffan de Mistura also urged both sides to begin ceasefire negotiations.</p> <p>There has been no official response from the government in Damascus.</p> <p>The opposition says it will not negotiate unless the government stops bombing civilian areas, lifts blockades on besieged towns and releases detainees.</p> <p>A senior UN official says Russian escalation was the main reason for the suspension of the Syria peace talks in Geneva.</p> <p>Little progress has been made in the talks since they began on Monday.</p> </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SyriaTalks?src=hash">#SyriaTalks</a> have started in Geneva.<br /> Statement by UN <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Syria?src=hash">#Syria</a> Envoy Staffan de Mistura: <a href="https://t.co/T6KzJtZviA">https://t.co/T6KzJtZviA</a> <a href="https://t.co/3mPiu7JJru">pic.twitter.com/3mPiu7JJru</a></p>— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) <a href="https://twitter.com/UNGeneva/status/693389034001924099">January 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p> <p>The talks are aimed at bringing peace to Syria after 5 years of conflict.</p> </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">UN Syria Envoy Staffan De Mistura in Geneva: 'I have set a date for the next talks, February 25th' <a href="https://t.co/l7AlALTC1i">pic.twitter.com/l7AlALTC1i</a></p>— <span class="caps">AJE</span> News (@AJENews) <a href="https://twitter.com/AJENews/status/694940682167926784">February 3, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p> <p>On Wednesday night, special envoy Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week halt in the UN-mediated negotiations, saying they needed support from the rival sides’ international backers, principally the US and Russia.</p> <p>An unnamed UN source told reporters that De Mistura halted the talks after the process was undermined by Russian military escalation.</p> </p> <h3><strong>What caused the halt?</strong></h3> <p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Syrian army source sees Aleppo encircled soon <a href="https://t.co/rDSHRtmgci">https://t.co/rDSHRtmgci</a></p>— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) <a href="https://twitter.com/ReutersWorld/status/695188465839906817">February 4, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </p> <p>On Wednesday, the Syrian Army and its allies broke a three-year siege in two key towns in the north-western province of Aleppo.</p> <p>Analysts say this is a big blow for the opposition.</p> <p>Opposition forces say the towns of Nubul and Zahraa were only seized after more than 500 raids by Russian military aircraft.</p> <p>With an estimated population of 60000, they are connected to the Turkish border by areas under the control of Kurdish militias that gave them some access. <p></p> <h3><strong>The context</strong></h3> </p> <p>Washington opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supports his opponents.</p> <p>Moscow says this means the US is supporting terrorists.</p> <p>The US State Department says the air strikes around Aleppo focus mainly on Assad’s foes rather than on the militants from Islamic State Russia says it is trying to defeat. <p></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">Riad Hijab, ex-Premier ministre syrien devenu opposant <a href="https://t.co/bctCKHoxVI">https://t.co/bctCKHoxVI</a> <a href="https://t.co/lsond0EffG">pic.twitter.com/lsond0EffG</a></p>— <span class="caps">RFI</span> (@RFI) <a href="https://twitter.com/RFI/status/694923070159499264">February 3, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </p> <p><strong>Syrian opposition coordinator Riad Hijab</strong> said there would be no ceasefire until a transition without President Assad was in place.</p> <p>He said the pause would give the West a chance to put pressure on the Assad government and for Russia to end their military activity. </p> <p>He said he would not return until there was a change on the ground. <p></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Syria?src=hash">#Syria</a> talks <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Geneva?src=hash">#Geneva</a> Syrian Government delegation – Bashar al Jafari address media – latest attack in Damascus – <a href="https://t.co/VOsraWoJ1A">pic.twitter.com/VOsraWoJ1A</a></p>— Nic Robertson (@NicRobertsonCNN) <a href="https://twitter.com/NicRobertsonCNN/status/693779377910353920">January 31, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </p> <p>Government delegation chief <strong>Bashar al-Ja’afari</strong> accused the opposition of pulling out because it was losing.</p> <p>“The military developments on the ground are crucial. I noticed the opposition decided to withdraw after the road to Nubul and Zahraa was re-opened.” <p></p> <h3><strong>What they are saying</strong></h3> </p> <p><em>“The <span class="caps">HNC</span> delegation will leave Geneva tomorrow (4 February) and will not return to Geneva if the humanitarian demands of the Syrian people cannot be achieved.”</em> – <strong>Riad Hajib, Chief Negotiator of the opposition High Negotiations Commitee</strong> <p></p> <p><em>“Failure, yes, there is a failure. It is a failure of everyone, except the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, because we responded positively to the invitation.”</em> -*Bashar al-Jaafari, Head of Syrian Delegation*.</p> </p> <p><em>“I have indicated from the very first day that I will not talk for the sake of talking.”</em> – <strong>UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura</strong> <p></p> <p><em>“I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the UN did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely.”</em> – <strong>un-named senior UN official</strong>.</p> </p> <p><em>“I do not see why these air strikes should be stopped”</em> – <strong>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov</strong>. <p></p> <p><em>“It is past time for them to meet existing obligations and restore the international community’s confidence in their intentions of supporting a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.”</em> – <strong>US Secretary of State John Kerry</strong></p> </p>