February 12, 2016 / 10:16 AM / 2 years ago

Outlook for Syria peace talks still 'cloudy' - U.N

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura is very keen to hold a new round of peace talks after big powers agreed on a rapid “cessation of hostilities”, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday, but plans to reconvene the talks were still “cloudy”.

Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand in front of damaged shops in the town of Rabiya after they recaptured the rebel-held town in coastal Latakia province, Syria January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

De Mistura abruptly suspended a first round of talks on Feb. 3, saying there was more work to be done by the big powers sponsoring the talks between the Syrian sides, but he hoped to bring them back to the table in Geneva by Feb. 25.

The big powers, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, struck a deal in Munich early on Friday to start to bring an end to hostilities in a week and to provide rapid humanitarian access to besieged Syrian towns.

Diplomats from the countries backing the talks will meet on Friday in Geneva to discuss the aid plan.

“We have high hopes that the parties in the International Syria Support Group, including Russia and the United States will do everything they can to push for humanitarian access to civilians in need inside Syria,” said Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who will chair the meeting.

“This could be the breakthrough we have been waiting for to get full access to desperate civilians inside Syria. But it requires that all those with influence on all sides of the conflict are putting pressure the parties.”

Ahmad Fawzi, U.N. chief spokesman in Geneva, said the ink was “not yet dry” on the agreement struck in Munich and declined to say whether the deal had done enough for De Mistura to reconvene the peace talks.

“You’re asking for certainty in a very cloudy situation. Politics is the art of the possible,” he told a U.N. briefing.

David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, an aid agency, said the agreement needed detail and urgency.

“You don’t wait a week for an emergency operation and the people of Syria should not have to wait a week for relief from bombings,” Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, said in a statement.

“We wait with eager anticipation to see whether this agreement is a turning point or a false dawn.”

De Mistura will brief the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 17, Fawzi said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Louise Ireland

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