US, Russia Back UN Plan to Restart Syrian Peace Talks

US, Russia Back UN Plan to Restart Syrian Peace TalksUS, Russia Back UN Plan to Restart Syrian Peace Talks

Despite ceasefire violations that have killed over 130 people, international powers press for renewed peace talks.

The United Nations envoy to Syria is trying to parlay a week-old ceasefire into peace talks that would begin on Wednesday in a staggered start.

“I see us beginning on March 10 when we will launch the process,” said envoy Staffan de Mistura. “Some [participants] will arrive on the ninth. Others, because of difficulties with hotel reservations, will arrive on the 11th. Others will arrive on the 14th.”

The negotiations would be held indirectly, meaning that the warring sides would not meet face-to-face, DPA reported.

Whether the talks get off the ground remains to be seen, as the key opposition group is balking. While international observers say the ceasefire is largely holding, the main opposition group—the High Negotiations Committee—said parts of the country remain under siege.

Despite continued differences, both the United States and Russia are in agreement on the need to move the peace process forward.

“The two sides called to start the negotiations as soon as possible ... between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the opposition, during which the Syrians themselves should determine the future of their country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued after a lengthy phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

While some of that fighting is the result of continued combat with the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and the Al-Qaeda backed Al-Nusra Front, which have both been excluded from the ceasefire, HNC sites are claimed to also being hit, and one aid agency says 135 people have been killed in areas included in the ceasefire.

The UN’s de Mistura said the Syrian government needs to process aid deliveries faster.

“Lorries are waiting for 36 hours,” he said. “Medical aid must be allowed.”