Syria ceasefire task force to meet Saturday: UN envoy

27th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

A special task force will meet in Geneva Saturday to evaluate how a fledgling Syrian ceasefire is holding, the UN envoy said, adding that a system had been created to deal with violations.

Shortly after a landmark truce came into effect at midnight, Staffan de Mistura said initial reports indicated the fighting appeared to have "calmed down", although one incident was under investigation.

The task force created by the 17-nation International Syria Support Group would meet to "monitor and check" what has been happening on the ground, he said in Geneva.

De Mistura said the group would examine "any incidents that might have been taking place and what... needs to be done in order to contain them".

"The important point... is if (any) incidents will be quickly brought under control and contained. That is going to be the test," he stressed.

The US and Russian co-chairs of the task force evaluating the ceasefire have "established separate operation centres in Moscow, in Washington DC, Latakia and Amman," alongside a 24/7 UN operation centre in Geneva.

De Mistura said the centres would "collect information on infringements" but, while the UN would help with analysis, "the two co-chairs have the primary task of addressing cases of non-compliance".

It would seek to deal with any infractions through diplomatic channels, he said, adding that "a military response should be... the last resort".

The ceasefire agreement is considered the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end Syria's five-year war, but it has been plagued by doubts after previous peace efforts failed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and 97 armed groups had signed up for the deal, which allows fighting to continue against the Islamic State group and other jihadists.

De Mistura said he planned to call a new round of Syria peace talks starting on March 7 and lasting initially for three weeks.

The latest effort at negotiations were suspended earlier this month without ever really getting started, in the face of relentless bombing by regime forces and key Damascus backer Russia.

But de Mistura said the efforts to seal a ceasefire and increasing humanitarian aid since then had changed the dynamic.

"The resumption of the talks should be much more concrete," he said.

© 2016 AFP

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