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    United Nations (UN) special envoy Staffan de Mistura (C-L) sits facing Syria's main opposition group during Syrian peace talks at the UN Offices in Geneva on February 1, 2016

    UN Puts Intra-Syrian Geneva Talks on Pause

    © AFP 2019 / FABRICE COFFRIN
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    The reasons and the comments on the decision of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to postpone the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva until February 25.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The intra-Syrian Geneva talks on the settlement of the civil war in the Middle Eastern country were postponed on Wednesday until February 25.

    The decision was taken by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura who said that multiple precursory issues, including securing access for humanitarian aid deliveries to besieged areas in Syria, make progress in the negotiation impossible.

    "I am not prepared for talks for the sake of talks," de Mistura told reporters after a meeting with delegates from the Syria opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) in Geneva.

    De Mistura added that the negotiations might resume earlier, and during the pause he would undertake consultations with concerned stakeholders.

    The opposition and government delegations immediately blamed each other for the breakdown in negotiations.

    SAUDIS, TURKS, OPPOSITION TO BLAME

    According to the Syrian government delegation, responsibility for the failed start to the talks rests with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Syrian opposition.

    "Those who have the responsibility for this failure are the Saudis and Turks and oppositioners," Bashar Jaafari, the head of the delegation, told reporters.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the donors Conference for Syria in London, Britain February 4, 2016
    © REUTERS / Dan Kitwood/pool
    He added that the government was not to blame for the suspension of the negotiations, although cautioning that Damascus has yet to make a decision on whether its delegation would return on February 25.

    DAMASCUS TO BLAME

    Riyad Hijab, head of the Riyadh-formed HNC delegation warned that Damascus actions on the ground and its stance at the preparatory Geneva talks would lead to the ultimate failure of reconciliation dialogue.

    "We came to Geneva to make it a success… but we know that regime that drove the negotiation to the failure in 2014, will do the same this time," Hijab told reporters.

    In his statement Hijab referred to the second rounds of UN-sponsored peace talks, Geneva II, that ended in an impasse between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition in early 2014.

    "HNC will leave Geneva tomorrow and will not come back here until we see progress on the ground, " Riyad Hijab stressed, urging the international community to ensure the establishment of a transitional government body in Damascus.

    Mohamed Alloush, a representative of Jaish al-Islam, told Sputnik that the participation of the rebel Islamist group in the new round of intra-Syrian peace talks would depend on the humanitarian situation in the country.

    "Unless there is the improvement of humanitarian conditions in accordance with the UN resolution 2254, we are not talking about our participation [in the new series of the talks scheduled for February 25]," Alloush said.

    US CLAIMS RUSSIA 'IN PART' TO BLAME…

    US State Department spokesperson John Kirby "in part" blamed Russia for contributing to the failure of the negotiations.

    "It’s difficult in the extreme to see how strikes against civilian targets contribute in any way to the peace process now being explored," Kirby stated on Wednesday when asked what was responsible for UN envoy pressing the pause button on the talks in Geneva.

    Kirby claimed that the United States continues to see Russian airstrikes in and around Aleppo, which have led to reports of civilian casualties, increased displacement of Syrian citizens and the possible obstruction of humanitarian aid assistance routes.

    … MOSCOW REFUSES SUCH CLAIMS

    Russia dismissed the US accusations, branding the claims that Russia had tried to make the current intra-Syrian talks in Geneva fail "absolutely unfounded."

    "These are unfounded accusations, not based on anything at all. This is an attempt to avoid solving the problem," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Sputnik on Thursday.

    The ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a news briefing that Moscow considers absurd the Western claims that the Russian airstrikes are fueling the civil war in Syria.

    "The claims that we hear are, certainly, absurd. In particular, those alleging the Russian military interference in Syria, and claims that Russian actions stimulate the civil war in that country," Zakharova told a news briefing in Moscow.

    Zakharova pointed out that Russia’s military operation in Syria began on September 30, 2015, while the country has been locked in a conflict for almost five years with US-led international coalition carrying out airstrikes in Syria since September 2014. The spokeswoman also stressed that Moscow had played a key role in the Syrian peace process.

    Earlier, the Russian General Staff repeatedly rejected Western accusations that the Russian airstrikes were hitting opposition and civilian targets, saying it closely coordinates its intelligence to exclusively strike terrorist positions.

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    Intra-Syria talks, Syrian crisis, United Nations, Staffan de Mistura, Syria