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UN pleads with Iran, Russia, Turkey to prevent collapse of Syria truce

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrives for a session of Syria peace talks at Palais des Nations in Geneva, on March 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The UN’s Syria envoy has written to Iran, Russia and Turkey, pleading with the trio to urgently help save the Syria-wide ceasefire, which has recently been undermined by militant attacks against government positions near Damascus and Hama.

Staffan de Mistura voiced alarm over a spike in truce violations around the Syrian capital and the central Hama Province in letters sent to Iran and Russia, both allies with the Syrian government, as well as Turkey, the supporter of the opposition, his office said in a statement.

The nationwide ceasefire was brokered last December between the Syrian government and militants by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran.

On the back of the landmark truce, the three states have mediated three rounds of peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, since the beginning of 2017.

The Astana discussions have mainly focused on consolidating the ceasefire, paving the way for the resumption of a parallel UN-led peace process between Syria’s warring sides in Geneva, Switzerland.

De Mistura further warned that renewed violence near Damascus and Hama have had “significant negative consequences for the safety of Syrian civilians, humanitarian access and the momentum of the political process” in Geneva.

The UN diplomat urged the three countries “to undertake urgent efforts to uphold the ceasefire” as the guarantors.

General view taken at the start of a meeting between UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Syria’s government delegation during peace talks in Geneva on March 25, 2017 (Photo by AFP)

De Mistura’s remarks came as the second full day of the UN-led Syria talks in Geneva came to a close, with rival parties still deadlocked on key issues. The negotiations, which are expected to last until April 1, are centered on terrorism, governance, elections and drafting a new constitution.

Over the past week, militant groups have launched a barrage of attacks on government positions around Damascus and Hama, prompting clashes with the Syrian army.

In a similar call on Friday, the UN’s Syria envoy said Tehran, Moscow and Ankara need to hold a fresh round of talks between the parties to the Syria conflict in an effort to “retake the situation in hand” and strengthen the ceasefire in the country.

Days after the outbreak of fighting close to Damascus and Hama, Syria sent two letters to the United Nations, saying such militant attacks are aimed at undermining the UN-sponsored Syria peace talks in Switzerland.

In the letters, Syria also held Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey responsible for the renewed violence. The three countries are widely viewed as staunch supporters of the Takfiri militants operating to topple the Damascus government.

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