BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria's civil war and peace talks in Geneva (all times local):
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says the suspended participation of the Syrian opposition in the Geneva talks could lead to "a return of total armed conflict"
Zakharova said on Thursday that "we have a situation where terrorists are desperately trying to disrupt the political process," referring to the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee, which said Monday it was halting its involvement in talks.
Speaking at a press briefing in Moscow, Zakharova said the armed standoff in Syria is growing, especially to the north and south of Aleppo, though the U.S.- Russia brokered cease-fire agreement is generally holding in most parts of the country.
The spokeswoman blames Turkey for continuing to destabilize Syria by colluding with extremist groups
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Syria's fragile cease-fire remains best the hope for ending the conflict.
Speaking in the Turkish capital, Ankara, he said the cease-fire was "under strain" but remains the "best basis for a negotiated, peaceful solution to the crisis."
Stoltenberg noted that Russia has maintained a "considerable military presence" in support of the Syrian government despite announcing a partial withdrawal.
A February cease-fire agreement between President Bashar Assad's government and rebel fighters, which excluded extremist factions like the Islamic State group, greatly reduced violence in Syria but has all but collapsed in the north of the country amid faltering peace talks in Geneva.