Syria ceasefire talks to restart in Vienna as differences remain

Syria ceasefire talks to restart in Vienna as differences remain
John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov will co-chair a meeting of the International Syria Support Group on Tuesday in an attempt to patch up an agreement reached in February on a cessation of hostilities and expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas, The Guardian reported.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy overseeing the indirect negotiations, will also be in the Austrian capital seeking support for a new round to keep the diplomatic route open, despite the apparently unbridgeable gaps between the parties.

De Mistura has estimated that more than 400,000 people have been killed in the five-year conflict, which has displaced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million.

Arab and western officials involved said they do not expect significant achievements from the talks. The conventional wisdom regarding the current situation in Syria is that Russia is calling the shots and the US is working with it, despite the two countries’ ostensible disagreement about Assad’s fate.

Syrian opposition insists that Assad must go. The Assad regime has dismissed talk of a “political transition” and refers only to the creation of a national unity government that could include opposition elements alongside the current regime, though the president dismisses most of his opponents as “terrorists”.

Riyad Hijab, the head of HNC, has insisted that there will be no return to Geneva unless Syrian civilians are protected from regime airstrikes, sieges are broken and thousands of prisoners are released.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has indicated he will await the results of Tuesday’s talks before setting a date for the next round of proximity talks between the Assad regime and opposition, Voice of America reported.

US officials travelling with Kerry say Washington still insists Assad should go, with an August 1 deadline for settling on the framework under which he does so, Digital Journal reported adding that Assad, bolstered by military support from Russia and Iran, has shown no sign he is prepared to leave and his forces are still battling for territory.

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