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UN Syria Envoy to Assess Progress as Peace Talks Hang in Balance

08 December 2017

De Mistura said on Thursday that Ja'afari's delegation had confirmed it would return on Sunday, five days later than expected, for another stretch of talks lasting until December 15.

The unified Syrian opposition delegation in Geneva on Wednesday urged the regime to participate in ongoing peace talks. "If they are quite serious about bringing peace to Syria, well they should show up".

"It is the responsibility of the global community and the special envoy to announce to the world which party is rejecting the negotiation", the chief opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters on Tuesday after meeting with de Mistura.

He also said that Russian Federation, as one of Assad's main supporters, needed to assume its responsibilities so that the Syrian government finally entered the negotiations.

Most serious of all, the United Nations reports the government still refuses to permit the medical evacuation of almost 500 critically ill and wounded people from Eastern Ghouta, a besieged suburb of Damascus. Aridi said children in Ghouta are dying and have no access to medical care amid an intense bombing campaign that began last month.

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He said the Geneva rounds of talks were the only peace process backed by the U.N. Security Council, although there were many other initiatives being planned.

This was outlined earlier at the same briefing by the United Nations special advisor on humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland and de Mistura said it is "unacceptable".

"The delegation will not leave today or tomorrow for Geneva, and the final decision (on attending) has not been taken yet", a source close to the government delegation told AFP on Tuesday.

Syria's ambassador to Geneva, Hussam Edin Aala, told The Associated Press that Damascus was "studying" the invitation.

The delegation returned to Damascus to "consult and refresh", but Ja'afari initially threatened not to come back, which the opposition said would be "an embarrassment to Russia".

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Syria's opposition has insisted that Mr Al Assad must step down, but his negotiators have refused to discuss the issue and the regime's recent successes on the battlefield have strengthened his hand.

Elsewhere in Syria, an explosion ripped through a van near the central city of Homs, killing at least eight people. State news agency SANA said eight people were killed and 18 wounded. The city was known as the "capital of the revolution" following the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad, but is now under government control.

Syria's air defence shot down three Israeli missiles targeting a military post near the capital Damascus, state news agency said on Tuesday. The Islamic State group claimed Tuesday's attack in Akarma, a government stronghold south of the city.

There was no Israeli comment on the incident.

The opposition's Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported late on Monday the Israeli airstrike on the Damascus suburb of Jamaraya.

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Israel has acknowledged carrying out airstrikes in Syria since the outbreak of the bloody war in the country six years ago to stop arms deliveries to Hizballah forces.

UN Syria Envoy to Assess Progress as Peace Talks Hang in Balance