UN Syria envoy to meet US, Russian officials July 26
People gather at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held town of Atareb in Aleppo province, Syria, July 25, 2016. REUTERS photoU.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura will hold talks July 26 with top U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva in a bid to revive flagging peace talks, his office said.
U.S. mission spokesman Paul Patin told AFP that the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney will be at the meeting, while Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency said Moscow will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
De Mistura’s spokeswoman Jessy Chahine, who confirmed the meeting, gave no details about its agenda, but the U.N. envoy has been trying to save a peace process which some feared was facing total collapse.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier this month announced an agreement on “concrete steps” to salvage a failing cease-fire in Syria, a key step before negotiations can resume.
Kerry and Lavrov were also due to meet on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Vientiane, Laos on July 26.
When peace talks to end the five-year war restarted in February, de Mistura voiced hope that he could strike a deal for a new transitional government in Syria by Aug. 1.
While that deadline will certainly not be met, the U.N. envoy has repeatedly stressed that there is no “Plan B” for Syria aside from the peace process, urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition leaders to stick with the negotiations.
Meanwhile, U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria have renewed an offer to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the besieged northern town of Manbij, saying the extremists can leave it and would not be attacked, the Associated Press reported.
The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) said the offer is meant to protect civilians in the town.
The Arab-Kurdish force has been on the offensive in Manbij, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
The July 25 offer by the SDF-linked Manbij Military Council comes days after the extremists ignored an earlier, 48-hour offer to leave the town just with their “individual weapons.”
It said that if ISIL allowed all civilians to leave, SDF would in return allow wounded ISIL militants safe passage to other areas nearby under their control.
The council urged ISIL to send a delegation from Manbij to discuss the matter.
Strikes continued to hit different places in Syria.
Rockets rained down on several Old Damascus neighborhoods on July 24, including one known for its cafes and restaurants, killing at least eight people and wounding 20 others.
“At least eight people were killed and more than 20 others were wounded when rockets hits several neighborhoods in Old Damascus,” he Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that the rockets were fired from rebel positions on the outskirts of the capital.
Syria’s state news agency SANA, quoting a police source, denounced a “terrorist attack” that it said killed five people and wounded 16.
Air strikes and barrel bomb attacks killed 16 civilians in rebel-held parts of Aleppo province on July 25, with rebel rocket fire onto government areas killing three more, the Observatory said.
The group said the strikes in the early hours of July 25 were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, and hit several locations including a market area.