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Syria opp. threatens to quit peace talks, urges no-fly zone

A meeting between UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and members of the Syrian opposition during peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, April 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian opposition groups have threatened to walk away from peace talks with the government, and demanded the establishment of a no-fly zone over the Arab country by foreign countries.

Two dozen opposition groups wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, voicing dissatisfaction with the ongoing peace talks in Geneva and threatening to quit unless their demands are met.

The signatories further called on Ban to validate the air-dropping of aid to various areas of the country “irrespective of Syrian regime consent.”

They also urged the UN chief to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court - an idea which UN Security Council members Russia and China have vetoed in the past.

Predicting another veto, the groups called on Ban to urge member states to consider a special tribunal for Syria or to prosecute cases under universal jurisdiction.

“But if the international community cannot even protect our ability to serve and assist Syrian society, our presence in Geneva is not only meaningless, it is unnecessary,” they said.

Back in April, the talks foundered after the Saudi-backed opposition group abandoned the negotiating table.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) left the negotiations to protest at what it called escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria and declared a "new war" on the government.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, but UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict. 

On Wednesday, reports said a coalition of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, and Turkmen fighters had seized a military airport held by Daesh terrorists near the Iraqi border.

The UK-based Observatory for Human Rights said the operation took place at dawn, leading to the liberation of the Hamadan airport.

Daesh controls the nearby town of al-Bukamal, whose recapture would hamper the militants’ ability to move between the Iraqi and Syrian territories of their self-declared headquarters, namely Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria.

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