The Latest: UN chief urges Syria parties to keep promises

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2016 3:46 PM
The Latest: UN chief urges Syria parties to keep promises

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict as a fragile cease-fire enters its fourth day (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the ceasefire in Syria is largely holding despite some incidents and is calling on participants to "keep their promises and demonstrate their good faith."

Ban says that is crucial for the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas.

Speaking in Madrid Tuesday, he said 500,000 people are living in besieged areas and many "have not received aid for months or even years."

Ban says humanitarian aid should be delivered to at least 140,000 within the next six days. Some will be provided via air drops.

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6:45 p.m.

The office of the U.N. envoy for Syria says he has pushed back the planned resumption of peace talks between the government and opposition groups to March 9 for "logistical and practical" reasons.

Staffan de Mistura had earlier said the talks would resume March 7.

Indirect talks held last month were abruptly suspended just days after they began, with the opposition saying it could not negotiate while the government was waging a major offensive around the city of Aleppo.

The March 7 date was announced last week as a cease-fire accord brokered by the United States and Russia was taking effect.

U.N. and other officials have said that the "cessation of hostilities" has largely held since taking effect Saturday. It excludes U.N.-designated terror groups like the Islamic State and the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

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5:30 p.m.

The international president of Doctors Without Borders says the medical charity's teams have seen a "marked decrease" in air strikes and shelling in Syria since a cease-fire went into effect late last week.

Dr. Joanne Liu said Tuesday that the group, also known by its French acronym MSF, is ready to get more aid to hard-hit areas, but wants to see first if the limited truce will hold.

She told The Associated Press that MSF has not seen new movement of Syrian civilians in recent days, after thousands fled a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive last month.

Liu says there has been no response to repeated demands for an international investigation of back-to-back air strikes two weeks ago on an MSF-supported hospital that killed 25 people

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5 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that those who repeatedly violate the terms of Friday's cease-fire are exempt and can be attacked.

Lavrov told journalists on Tuesday in Geneva that U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura had confirmed new Syrian talks will begin in the first half of March, according to Russian news reports.

The foreign minister also said Russia, America and U.N. partners are pleased with the way the peace process is moving forward.

Lavrov said that they "are content with the humanitarian advances in Syria, including the unblocking of new settlements, delivery of supplies and foodstuffs to those in need."

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3:45 p.m.

Syrian state media and two opposition monitoring groups are reporting shelling of residential areas in a southern city.

State news agency SANA said insurgents fired seven shells at the government-held neighborhoods of Sabeel and the airport in the city of Daraa, where the country's crisis began in March 2011.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said government forces shelled rebel-held parts of the city. The Observatory said several people were wounded.

The shelling appears to be a violation of a truce brokered by Russia and the U.S. that went into effect at midnight Friday.

The truce remains fragile amid reports of violations in different parts of Syria.

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3:30 p.m.

The Russian Defense Ministry says it has sent additional radars and drones to the air base in the government-controlled area in Syria which Moscow uses for its bombing operation.

The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Moscow has sent three sets of surveillance equipment which include drones and two radar stations to the Hemeimeem air base in the coastal province of Latakia "in order to detect artillery used by the terrorists."

Russia earlier accused the Islamic State group and Nusra Front of firing at government positions. Neither group is part of the ongoing cease-fire.

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2:50 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says in an interview with German television that rebels who lay down their arms can expect a "full amnesty."

Assad was asked in the interview with ARD television airing Tuesday what a moderate rebel could do to be accepted by him as a Syrian civilian again.

According to excerpts released by the channel, he replied: "Just to give up your armament, whether you want to join the political process or (are) not interested about the political process."

He added that the most important thing for him is that citizens can't hold machine guns and hurt people — "This is the only thing that we ask. We don't ask for anything. As I said, we give them full amnesty."

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2:40 p.m.

Russia's foreign minister says convoys entering war-torn Syria from neighboring Turkey have supplied rebel groups with weapons and is calling for the closure of the border.

In Geneva on Tuesday, Sergey Lavrov told the U.N. Human Rights Council that "gangs have received arms across this border, including from humanitarian convoys." Russia, an ally of Syria's president, has had tense ties with Turkey in recent months.

Earlier, he told the conference on disarmament that information showed "terrorist groups," have the technical specifications and facilities needed to make chemical weapons, and have hired specialists with knowledge of how to create chemical weapons.

Russia and the United States last week pushed through a "cessation of hostilities" accord in Syria. Officials say it has largely eased the violence since taking effect Saturday.

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2:30 p.m.

Russia's Defense Ministry says the ongoing cease-fire in Syria has been violated 15 times in the past 24 hours.

The ministry said in a statement Tuesday that most of the violations were recorded around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Latakia.

The Russians blamed the shelling on the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian branch. Both extremist groups have been left out of the current cease-fire, and the ministry statement said they have been attacking government positions and residential areas from territory controlled by the Syrian opposition.

The cease-fire in Syrian began at midnight Friday and has brought a notable reduction in hostilities for the first time in the five-year war that has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced half of Syria's population and flooded Europe with refugees.

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2:15 p.m.

A series of artillery shells exploded on the main street of a Syrian village near the Turkish border, sending a group of international reporters running for cover and underscoring the limits of Syria's partial cease-fire.

The journalists were visiting the village of Kinsibba, which overlooks the Turkish border, on a trip Tuesday organized by Russia's defense and foreign ministries.

The Russian military says the shelling came from Nusra Front, a militant group that is excluded from the Russia and U.S brokered cease-fire.

The Syrian cease-fire, which is now in its fourth day, also does not cover the Islamic State group.

Reporters were walking across the village and talking to locals when the first shell struck a hillside a few hundred meters away. No casualties were reported.