Syria regime 'escalations' led to talks pause: Germany

4th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

"Military escalations" by the Syrian regime led to the suspension of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva this week but there is still a "glimpse of hope," Germany's foreign minister said Thursday.

After meeting King Salman and other leaders in Saudi Arabia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks broke down "because of the military escalations by the regime".

Backed by a wave of Russian air strikes, government forces have advanced this week against rebel positions on the road to the country's second city Aleppo in an offensive that has been blamed for suspension of the Geneva talks.

"The fighting has seen an escalation and regime forces bear the responsibility for that," Steinmeier said at a news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday said talks -- the latest UN initiative to end the war in Syria -- would now resume on February 25.

His comments came after several days of fruitless meetings aimed at starting indirect negotiations between Syria's government and opposition.

"This is a very difficult situation," Steinmeier said, according to an English translation of his remarks.

"But there is still a glimpse of hope. There is still a conviction of all parties to maintain the principles of Vienna... based on that we can come back to the negotiating table."

Germany is one of 20 nations and international organisations -- including Saudi Arabia -- in the Syria Support Group which last year in Vienna devised a plan for political transition leading to free elections in Syria.

"It is important to intensify the political discussions about Syria," the German minister said.

Jubeir told reporters the Syrian government delegation "was not serious" about peace negotiations and that Russia had intensified its military operations in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The almost five-year-old civil war has killed more than 260,000 people, forced millions from their homes and sucked in a host of regional and global powers.

Germany accepted more than one million asylum-seekers last year, many of them from Syria.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee insists on immediate steps to allow aid into besieged cities, a halt to the bombardment of civilians and the release of thousands of prisoners.

The HNC was formed after the main Syrian political opposition and armed factions came together in Riyadh in December for an unprecedented bid at unity, after months of Saudi efforts.

"You assumed this difficult responsibility," Steinmeier said, praising the Saudi role.


© 2016 AFP

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