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Syria opposition urges end to Russian anti-terror air strikes

UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura (C-L) sits facing Syria's main opposition group during peace talks in Geneva on Feb. 1, 2016. ©AFP

The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition says Russia should immediately stop its anti-terror airstrikes on militant-held areas as a condition for its participation in peace talks with the Damascus government.

Monzer Makhous, a representative of the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said the Russian air campaign “complicates the situation” in Syria, Russia's Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

Moscow began its aerial military campaign against terrorists in Syria on September 30 last year upon a request by the Damascus government.

“If bombings continue, it is hard to imagine how the negotiating process will proceed,” said Makhous.

Last week, the latest round of talks between the Syrian government and the opposition was adjourned for three weeks after the HNC did not show up. February 25 has been set as the new date.

Analysts say the opposition refused to continue the negotiations after the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, made significant gains against the Takfiri militant groups on several fronts.

The foreign-backed conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people and displaced almost half of the country’s population.

Over one million besieged in Syria

Meanwhile, a new report said more than one million people are trapped in besieged areas in Syria, challenging an earlier report by the United Nations, which put the figure of people living in these areas at less than half a million.

The Siege Watch report, released Tuesday by the Netherlands-based aid group PAX and the Washington-based Syria Institute, suggests that 1.09 million people are living in 46 besieged communities.

The UN had estimated last month that 486,700 people living in 18 communities have been affected in Syria.

The aid group said “many remain unaware of the extent of the crisis, and the international response has been muted as a result.”

An ICRC convoy of aid waits on the outskirts of the besieged militant-held Syrian town of Madaya, Jan. 11, 2016. ©AFP

On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered more aid packages to 700 families in the militant-held suburb of Mu’adamiyat al-Sham near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The ICRC called for regular access to areas under siege in the Arab country, saying more aid will be delivered to Mu’adamiyat al-Sham in coming days.

The convoy was the second of its kind that was destined for the suburb last week as a similar operation provided food for over 12,000 people and medical supplies for 10,000 people earlier last week.

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