UN expected to announce date of new Syria peace talks


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations special envoy for Syria was expected Friday to announce a date for the resumption of peace talks, as a United States-Russia negotiated “cessation of hostilities” was set to take effect at midnight local time.

Staffan de Mistura will brief the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors via videoconference from Geneva and then speak to reporters.

If the cessation of hostilities holds, it would mark the first time international negotiations have managed a pause in Syria’s five-year civil war.

The Security Council was expected to vote Friday on a draft resolution endorsing the cease-fire.

According to a draft obtained by The Associated Press, the resolution would urge the U.N. secretary-general to resume the peace talks “as soon as possible.”

The draft 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 U.N.-designated terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Nusra Front, which hold swaths of Syrian territory.

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 U.N. secretary-general acknowledged “an increase of military activity across the board in Syria” in the hours leading up to the cease-fire.

“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.”

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Keaten reported from Geneva.

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