UN sees 'incremental progress' after Syria talks

Elias Hubbard
May 20, 2017

American officials and Syrian activists said the strike hit in the desert near the border with Jordan, though it was unclear if it struck the Syrian army or just militias allied with the government.

The global alliance - which usually strikes civilians-hit Syrian forces as they headed toward a remote coalition garrison near the southern border with Jordan.

The strike was sharply condemned by Syria's government.

Syria's government delegation, led by Bashar al-Jaafari, returned to United Nations headquarters Wednesday afternoon for a meeting with talks mediator Staffan de Mistura. It's impossible for Syria and countries in the region to have stability and security so long as Iran is in both Syria and other countries, " Nasr Al-Hariri, head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee, said.

US officials say an American airstrike has hit pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria as they were setting up fighting positions in a protected area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the strike destroyed vehicles and killed eight militiamen. There is little hope of a breakthrough, with the HNC continuing to insist on Assad's ousting as part of any political transition, a demand seen by the government as a non-starter.

Asked whether any of the four baskets were discussed, al-Jaafari said "in four days we did not discuss any basket of four baskets and we only talk about the subject of expert meetings".

The warring sides in Syria have agreed to set up expert committees to discuss "constitutional issues".

"This is the only result from this round", Jaafari said. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated in August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syrian crisis until then.

The allegations come at a time when the Trump administration is weighing its options in Syria, where an estimated 400,000 have been killed and half the population displaced by the 6-year-old civil war. "I think keeping Geneva progress alive is an achievement".

"Such actions that were carried out against the Syrian armed forces. this is completely unacceptable, this is a breach of Syrian sovereignty", he was quoted as saying by state-run RIA Novosti in Switzerland. "The importance of progress on the constitutional aspects was stressed, as well as Russia's efforts to render humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population in need", the ministry reported.

Several rounds of peace talks have been held in Geneva and the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Observers said de Mistura would be scrambling to match the Astana track's momentum.

A western diplomat in Geneva said the UN's initiative on constitutional meetings was an effort to "get people into substance".

Refining of details of the problems taken up at the pan-Syrian talks should become the backbone element of the mechanism of consultations behind closed doors proposed by De Mistura.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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