GENEVA: A fragile ceasefire in Syria is in grave peril, the UN warned Friday (Saturday in Manila), insisting that a high-level meeting of countries with influence in the war-ravaged nation was “urgently needed” to shore up faltering peace efforts.
The truce “is still in effect, but it is in great trouble if we don’t act quickly,” the United Nations’ top envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told reporters.
A ceasefire took effect in Syria at the end of February, but the country has been rocked by fighting in recent weeks, particularly around the city of Aleppo.
Frustrated by the surging violence and lacking access for desperately needed humanitarian aid on the ground, Syria’s main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) earlier this week halted its formal participation in peace talks at United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
But de Mistura said Friday members of his team had continued to hold “very, very productive” meetings at a technical level with remaining HNC members at their Geneva hotel, and said he intended to push ahead with the talks until “probably Wednesday, as originally planned.”
“We need to try until Wednesday to get as deep as possible in the areas that we have been starting discussing, and we can do that both formally, informally, technically, practically, but we need to do it,” he said.
De Mistura called on the international community to come together to help strengthen the ceasefire and support the difficult peace drive.
He called for a new high-level meeting of the 17-country International Syria Support Group, which is co-chaired by the United States and Russia, who brokered the February “cessation of hostilities” deal.
“We do need certainly a new ISSG at the ministerial level, because the level of danger … (means such a meeting) is urgently required,” he said.
US President Barack Obama on Friday voiced alarm at the situation in Syria.
“I am deeply concerned about the cessation of hostilities fraying and whether it’s sustainable,” he said at a press conference in London with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but has since spiraled into a multi-front war that has left more than 270,000 people dead.