The Latest: MSF: Starvation deaths in besieged Syrian town

AP News
Posted: Jan 29, 2016 4:23 PM
The Latest: MSF: Starvation deaths in besieged Syrian town

GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on U.N.-hosted peace talks for the Syrian civil war in Geneva (all times local):


10:00 p.m.

Doctors Without Borders says people in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya are dying of starvation despite relief convoys that delivered food and supplies earlier this month.

The international aid group also known by the French acronym MSF says Syrian government and allied forces have blocked "life-saving medical supplies from reaching the town" of about 20,000 people west of Damascus.

Citing health workers affiliated with the group, MSF said Friday that 16 people have died in the town since aid convoys began arriving there earlier this month as part of a U.N.-backed operation.

It reported 320 cases of malnutrition and said 33 of those "are in danger of dying if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment."


9:30 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is praising the Netherlands for expanding its airstrikes against Islamic State militants to include targets in Syria as well as Iraq.

In a statement Friday from Washington, Carter says "the lasting defeat of ISIL must be a global undertaking, because it is a global threat." He also praised the commitment of the Dutch people toward fighting Islamic extremists.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition government decided Friday to broaden its fighter jets' mandate to eastern Syria after requests from the U.S. and France.

Carter says the Dutch also promised additional funding to support moderate armed Syrian opposition groups with medical assistance and other aid, like funds to rebuild damaged hospitals and schools.


8:50 p.m.

The main Syrian opposition group says it is coming to Geneva "to test the seriousness of the other side" by discussing with the U.N. team the implementation of Security Council decisions on humanitarian issues.

In a statement issued Friday, the opposition group — known as the Higher Negotiating Committee or HNC— says it made its decision after receiving assurances from the U.N. and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that they fully supported the implementation of those resolutions calling for the lifting of government blockades and halting the bombardment of civilians. The decision also followed a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister in Riyadh.

The HNC said implementing those resolutions would be a "prelude" to a negotiating process aimed at achieving a political transition for the war-torn country.


8:20 p.m.

The main Syrian opposition group says it will send a small delegation to talk with U.N. officials at peace talks in Geneva.

A member of the Higher Negotiating Committee, Farah Atassi, says the delegation is coming "not to negotiate" but to talk to U.N. officials after receiving reassurances from the organization.

She did not say how many members would come, adding only that they will arrive Saturday.

Atassi spoke at a Geneva hotel not far from the U.N. offices where U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura and Syria's U.N. ambassador Bashar Ja'afari were meeting.


8:00 p.m.

The United Nation's Syria envoy says he has "good reason to believe" that the main Syrian opposition group will join Geneva peace talks Sunday.

Staffan de Mistura says he is still waiting for "formal indication" that the opposition coalition, known as the Higher Negotiating Committee, will attend the talks.

De Mistura spoke to journalists at the U.N. headquarters after meeting with the Syrian government delegation. The head of the government delegation, Syria's U.N. ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, walked out of that meeting without commenting to the waiting press corps.

De Mistura ignored journalists' questions about a report by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news network that the main opposition group has agreed to come to Geneva.


5:40 p.m.

Indirect peace talks aimed at resolving Syria's five-year conflict have begun at the U.N, headquarters in Geneva, without the participation of the main opposition group.

Friday's talks are the first since two rounds of negotiations collapsed in 2014. Syria's conflict has killed more than 250,000 people.

The main opposition delegation has said it will not participate without an end to the government and Russian bombardment of civilians and a lifting of sieges in rebel-held areas.

The meetings are part of a process outlined in a U.N. resolution last month that envisages an 18-month timetable for a political transition in Syria.

The first meeting is between the U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and a government delegation headed by the country's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja'afari.


12;10 p.m.

A Syrian opposition official says the main opposition group is staying away from peace talks until they get a response to their demands from the United Nations.

Basma Kodmani, a member of the opposition's negotiations team, says they are still waiting for response from the U.N. regarding lifting the sieges on rebel-held areas and an end to Russian and Syrian bombardment.

Opposition officials say they will not join the Geneva talks unless these demands are met.

The talks were scheduled to begin in Geneva on Friday and the Syrian government delegation is expected later in the day.

The U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistaura said Thursday that the peace talks he plans to launch in Geneva "in the next few days" are an opportunity not to be missed.