Syria peace talks pushed back to April 13, says UN
GENEVA – Agence France-Presse
AA photoU.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said April 7 that the next round of Syria peace talks will begin on April 13 after he completes a diplomatic tour, including stops in Damascus and Tehran, a push back from the formerly announced date of April 11.
“I will be very much insisting and pushing for... a serious discussion on political transition” at the upcoming round, de Mistura told reporters.
The United Nations had previously said the negotiations aimed at ending the five-year conflict would resume on April 11.
At the last round, which ended on March 24, the Damascus regime insisted it was premature to have a concrete dialogue on creating a transitional government, while the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) put forward its plan towards forming a new government.
“I need to verify the international and regional stakeholders’ position” in order to have “concrete results in the next round of talks”, de Mistura said, adding that he expected to be back in Geneva on April 12 or 13.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebel forces on April 7 took over a town near the Turkish border that had been the main stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rebel sources said.
The monitor said factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), some supplied with arms by Turkey and other foreign backers, captured the town of al-Rai after fierce battles with the militants.
“This is the beginning of the end of Daesh [ISIL], those who have bet the FSA have been decimated are now proven wrong. It’s a victory for the Free Syrian Army,” said Abu Abdullah from the Nour al Din al Zinki brigade that participated in the assault on the heavily defended border town.
On the same day, ISIL was accused of kidnapping more than 300 employees of a cement factory in Syria, in the latest mass abduction by the jihadists.
Syria’s official news agency SANA said the 300 people seized by ISIL were employees of Al-Badia cement factory.
“The company has informed the industry ministry that it hasn’t been able to make contact with the kidnapped individuals,” SANA said.