The top UN official on Syria said peace talks will not resume on February 25, while a monitoring group reported ongoing ground battles despite a pledge by world powers to bring about a “cessation of hostilities” by Friday.
“I cannot realistically call new Geneva talks for February 25. We need 10 days of preparation and invitations. But we aim to do so soon,” UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura told Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet in an interview published Friday.
Earlier this month, de Mistura put the Geneva peace talks on hold until February 25, saying military action had created an obstacle to the negotiations.
“We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks,” he said in the telephone interview from Damascus. “Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities.”
“I cannot say when I will call for talks. We have been disappointed in the past, now I am pragmatic and determined,” he added.
The envoy said that he wanted the United States and Russia, with their partners, to “agree about a beginning of a cessation of hostilities between today and the middle of next week. Now the ball is in their court.”
The cessation of hostilities was proposed last week by world powers meeting in Munich, Germany. Part of the plan was also to ensure access for humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria.
“We did not see any changes on the ground … battles, shelling and raids go on,” the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told dpa.
“Nothing indicates there is a cessation of hostilities,” he said.
Meanwhile, warplanes believed to be Russian carried out consecutive raids on areas in the southern province of Daraa and on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.