Separate talks with Syria rival sides stars
GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoThe U.N. will start on May 5 hosting separate talks with rival sides and “as many stakeholders as possible” in war-torn Syria in a bid to kickstart stalled negotiations to end the four-year conflict, AFP reported.
United Nations peace envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will give a news conference around midday May 5, kicking off four to six weeks of “separate consultations” with different sides in Syria’s four-year conflict, spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.
The “low key, low profile” talks will include as many players as possible, including different Syrian factions and regional and international players.
Terror-listed entities like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Al-Nusra have not been invited to the talks, but Fawzi said that groups in contact with them were on the list.
Iran, which backs President Bashar al-Assad and which has been excluded from two rounds of previous Syria negotiations in Switzerland, has been invited to take part.
There will be no face-to-face meetings between the different sides, with ambassadors and experts taking part in closed-door separate consultation.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, denied on May 3 a report that strikes led by Washington had killed at least 52 civilians in northern Syria earlier this week, saying those killed were actually fighters.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor director Rami Abdel Rahman had told AFP that seven children were among the dead from U.S.-led coalition strikes overnight on April 30 into May 1 on the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province.
He had warned the toll could rise as rescuers were battling to save 13 people trapped under rubble.
“US Central Command can confirm that Coalition forces conducted airstrikes in the vicinity of Birmahle, Syria, on April 30, destroying several ISIL fighting positions and striking more than 50 ISIL fighters,” command spokesman Major Curt Kellogg said in a statement.
“We currently have no indication that any civilians were killed in these strikes.”
Mortar bombs launched from Syria wounded two United Nations peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on May 4, the Israeli military said, in what appeared to be stray fire from Syrian civil war fighting.
A military spokeswoman said the peacekeepers were taken for treatment at an Israeli hospital and that she had no further details on their condition or nationality. Israel Radio said they were wounded slightly.
The spokeswoman said the mortar fire was apparently spillover fighting in Syria.
The U.N. mission known as UNDOF - with about 800 soldiers from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, and the Netherlands - was established in 1974. It monitors a ceasefire line on the Golan that has separated Israelis from Syrians since a 1973 war.