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De Mistura Says Peace Talks not Set to Resume for Weeks amid Warning of Starvation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Reuters

New York, Beirut- U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council on Thursday that there will be no new round of Syria talks for at least two or three weeks.

“He briefed on his intention to start the next round of talks as soon as feasible but certainly not within the next two/three weeks,” his office said in a statement.

A note for the press, issued by the office of the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General said that de Mistura briefed the Security Council in closed-door consultations, the first such discussions since the conclusion of the latest round of talks in Geneva and since the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) met in Vienna on May 17.

The envoy “reiterated the need to see progress on the ground — particularly in reference to the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access,” his office said in a statement.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said Washington shared the “frustrations and concerns” of de Mistura, and pointed a finger at Russia — which has backed Bashar Assad’s forces.

“Russia has special responsibility to press the Assad regime to abide by the cessation of hostility and end its bombardment and siege of innocent civilians,” Power said.

The Council’s consultations followed a joint press stake-out earlier Thursday in Geneva between de Mistura and his Senior Advisor, Jan Egeland, where de Mistura noted that violence was continuing on the ground and the humanitarian situation was deteriorating.

He said the issue of air drops had been discussed amply and at length by the Humanitarian Task Force.

Egeland sounded alarm bells, saying the threat of children dying from malnutrition hangs over at least three communities besieged by Syrian regime troops.

Access to besieged areas in Syria has fallen short of what was planned for May, he said. Of 1 million people, only 160,000 have been reached with aid so far, Egeland said, citing problems including regime restrictions.

The United Nations says more than 400,000 people are living under siege in Syria, most of them in areas besieged by the regime.

In addition, more than four million people are living in so-called hard-to-reach areas that are generally near fighting and checkpoints, according to U.N. figures.

Since February, there have been efforts to dramatically scale up humanitarian aid access to these areas, but delivering supplies has become increasingly difficult amid a surge in violence that has left a February truce hanging by a thread.

Even areas where the U.N. had received full approvals to go in, “there has been infinite problems in actually reaching the places,” Egeland said.

While in other areas where the approvals were based on a number of conditions, like the besieged rebel held towns of Daraya and Douma, “we haven’t been able to reach the people at all,” he added.

Egeland said aid was also failing to reach the besieged towns of Moadamiya in rural Damascus and Al Waer, near Homs.