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UN Syria envoy expects ‘impact’ from Kerry- Lavrov meeting

The UN special envoy for Syria said Thursday upcoming US-Russian talks could help his push to resume peace talks on the war-ravaged country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday to discuss Syria’s five-year-old conflict.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters the meeting would be “important” and have “an impact, certainly on the… political initiatives of the UN in order to relaunch the political process on Syria.”

He did not say whether he would be meeting with the two men while they were in town.

Successive rounds of international negotiations have failed to end the conflict, which has killed more than 290,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

Moscow and Washington support opposite sides in the conflict, but have a common foe in the Islamic State group.

They have been in contact on efforts to establish military cooperation against the jihadists.

The two countries also co-chair a UN-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria, which has been struggling to ensure access for desperately-needed aid.

Aleppo, Syria’s second city and former economic hub, has emerged as a top concern since regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.

Speaking after a weekly meeting of the humanitarian taskforce, de Mistura hinted a long-demanded 48-hour pause in fighting in Aleppo could soon happen, since Moscow last week gave its blessing.

“The Russian Federation replied yes. We will wait for others to do the same,” he said, without specifying which parties had yet to agree.

In any case, the UN was on standby with large convoys: “Trucks are ready, and they can leave anytime we get that message,” he said.

Jan Egeland, de Mistura’s deputy and head of the humanitarian taskforce, told reporters the aim was to secure a weekly 48-hour pause and deliver aid to both the rebel-held east and government-held west.

He said the plan was to send two convoys of 20 trucks each, carrying enough food and supplies for 80,000 people, from Turkey and into eastern Aleppo.

Simultaneously, aid mainly coming from Damascus would go into western Aleppo “where needs have also increased dramatically of late,” he said.

Efforts would also be made to repair the electrical plant in the disputed south of the city, which has been damaged in the fighting, cutting 1.8 million people across the city off from not only power, but also water, since electricity is needed to run the pumping stations.