The Latest: UN envoy: Key to Syria deal is its 'commitment'

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Posted: Feb 12, 2016 3:58 PM
The Latest: UN envoy: Key to Syria deal is its 'commitment'

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria and international diplomatic efforts to end the violence (all times local):

11:00 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says the key to the agreement reached on a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week is that it is "a commitment" by key nations not just a declaration.

Staffan de Mistura said in an interview with NPR radio in the United States on Friday that the cessation of hostilities means all parties will stop using heavy weapons and "that's what Syrian people are waiting for — no more bombing, no more mortars."

But he said the commitment needs to be verified and it doesn't mean the Islamic State group won't be targeted.

After the cessation of hostilities, de Mistura said the next step is to negotiate a cease-fire.

De Mistura stressed that no conflict "can actually end abruptly with a cease-fire."

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10:30 p.m.

A medical aid organization estimates that more than 100,000 people have left Aleppo in the past two weeks because of a Syrian government offensive and fears that the city would become besieged.

Tamer Monla Hasan with the Syrian American Medical Society also told reporters Friday that the main trauma hospital in eastern Aleppo last month operated on 430 people who had been injured by airstrikes and cluster bombs.

The eastern part of the city is held by rebels.

The doctor is calling for a safe corridor between the city and the Turkish border to allow people to flee.

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9.20 p.m.

The head of a U.N.-backed group that is hoping to send humanitarian aid into besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria says it will re-launch requests for access to both rebel- and government-held parts of the war-battered country.

Jan Egeland spoke to reporters Friday after convening a humanitarian task force in Geneva just hours after it was launched at a meeting of world powers at a security conference in Munich, where diplomats laid out hopes to send in aid within days.

Egeland said the task force composed of envoys from the International Syria Support Group will reconvene Wednesday.

He said envoys discussed a list of locations for aid deliveries, but declined to provide details, and acknowledged "a lot of work has to be done in the next days for the situation to improve."

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8.00 p.m.

Italy has decided to give 3 million euros ($3.3 million) in humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of Syrian civilians forced to flee bombings near Aleppo.

The Italian foreign ministry announced Friday that the aid, to be distributed via the U.N. World Food Program, will help provide legumes, rice, sugar, flour and vegetable oil. Another U.N. office will use some of the funds to purchase and distribute tents, fuel and other necessities.

Italy said the emergency aid was decided after a humanitarian truce agreement was reached earlier Friday at a meeting in Germany.

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7.50 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian chief is urging combatants in Syria to ensure "full, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access" to besieged, hard-to-reach and all other areas of the country.

Stephen O'Brien welcomed the agreement by key nations to a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week and to "accelerate and expand" deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged communities beginning this week.

He said in a statement Friday that "the people of Syria — in Aleppo, Madaya, Foua and Kfarya, Deir el-Zour and elsewhere — need an end to the brutal violence and bombing, the sieges, denial of free movement, food and medical care."

O'Brien stressed that the U.N. and its humanitarian partners need "safe, sustained access for humanitarian workers throughout the country."

Above all, he urged "meaningful action on the ground."

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6.25 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister is insisting that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go to make it possible to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria. He says that "we will achieve" political change in the country.

Adel al-Jubeir addressed the Munich Security Conference on Friday after joining foreign ministers from global and regional powers in agreeing to seek a temporary "cessation of hostilities" in Syria.

Al-Jubeir said his country is working for political change in order to remove "a man who is the single most effective magnet for extremists and terrorists in the region." He said "that's our objective and we will achieve it."

"Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh will not be defeated in Syria," he added, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

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5.45 p.m.

A humanitarian task force for Syria has kicked off its first meeting in Geneva with its leader saying he hopes it can pave the way for aid to be delivered to besieged areas in the war-battered country "without delay."

Jan Egeland says he hopes the meeting of International Syria Support Group envoys would open access to population centers in Syria amid continued fighting between President Bashar Assad forces and opposition groups.

Egeland told reporters Friday that he hoped aid could roll in "once we have all the access that we need."

The meeting of ambassadors and other envoys comes hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following an ISSG meeting in Munich that their two countries would co-chair the Geneva meeting.

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5:40 p.m.

Germany's defense minister has proposed that her country's military can train Syrian refugees to help them rebuild their country when the war there ends.

Ursula von der Leyen said at a security conference in Munich that pictures of the destruction in Syria make it clear that the country will need people with "very varied capabilities" to rebuild it. She noted Friday that the military offers training to craftspeople, technicians, logisticians and others.

Von der Leyen, who spoke alongside her French counterpart, said that if the peace process is ultimately successful Germany could one day help train Syrian security forces.

Syrians were the largest single group among the nearly 1.1 million people Germany registered as asylum-seekers last year — accounting for more than 400,000 of the total.

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5:25 p.m.

Jordan's King Abdullah is urging the international community to "act as one" diplomatically to stop the civil war in Syria.

Jordan neighbors Syria and is home to large numbers of Syrian refugees. The king noted in his speech to a security conference in Germany Friday that Jordan now hosts one Syrian for every five Jordanians.

Abdullah didn't explicitly address the agreement reached by international diplomats early Friday to seek a temporary "cessation of hostilities" in Syria's civil war. But he said that "our world must ... act as one on the diplomatic front."

He added that "the killing in Syria has to stop if we are to move forward and find a political solution, one that protects Syria's independence and integrity."

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1:40 p.m.

The man who is heading up a humanitarian task force on Syria following an overnight agreement on a cessation of hostilities within a week, says the deal could provide a "breakthrough" to get aid needed to civilians in the war-torn country.

Jan Egeland, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, was to lead Friday's meeting in Geneva of the task force called for under an agreement reached by the International Syria Support Group, under U.S. and Russian leadership.

Egeland said the task force's main focus is gaining access to besieged towns. He said aid convoys have been denied access and left on stand-by "for too long."

In a statement, Egeland said a request for access to the most-affected areas was made Friday, and aid could be shipped to some of those areas by early next week.

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1 p.m.

Hezbollah's TV channel says Syrian government forces are in position to target the final supply route to the rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo, after troops recaptured several strategic hills in the city's northern countryside.

The advance is part of a broader government offensive to isolate the rebel stronghold, which began in earnest last week when troops supported by allied militias and backed by heavy Russian airstrikes retook the villages of Nubul and Zahra.

The new positions south of Zahra allow forces to target the towns of Anadan, Hraytan, and Kafr Hamra, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV says.

Government forces were repelled in an effort to retake the hills earlier this week, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

The Observatory reports heavy fighting between government and opposition forces a few kilometers south, around the town of Tamoura.