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Syria talks pulled back from brink

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura looked to the United States and Russia for help after the Syrian opposition said it will pause its participation in formal negotiations but stay in Geneva until it sees progress on strengthening the cease-fire and aid access.
A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh - RTS8ZZ9
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WASHINGTON — UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who was clearly frustrated, said April 18 that the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) informed him they will pause their participation in formal negotiations at the United Nations, but have agreed to stay in Geneva at their hotel and talk with his team, until they see progress in bolstering the partial cease-fire and humanitarian aid access. But de Mistura managed to pull the talks from the brink of collapse, saying indirect talks would continue in Geneva through the week and suggesting the opposition might return to the formal negotiating table if there was demonstrated progress on aid access and shoring up the cease-fire around Aleppo.

After five years of war, it was unreasonable to expect the Syrian opposition and regime delegations to find common ground in just a few days of proximity talks in Geneva, de Mistura said. But despite no demonstrated compromise yet on a vision for Syria’s political future, he said, it was notable that both sides were talking about some version of a Syrian political transition, and it was totally normal that at the early stages of resumed peace talks, the warring parties would stake out maximal positions and show little common ground.

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