The Latest: UN envoy: Syria talks ongoing, truce in trouble

AP News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2016 1:54 PM
The Latest: UN envoy: Syria talks ongoing, truce in trouble

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria's civil war (all times local):

9 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says the current round of Geneva peace talks will continue until "probably Wednesday, as originally planned," but that the two sides are "extremely polarized" and a cease-fire is in trouble.

Staffan de Mistura says the hobbled peace process needs support from a group of countries known as the International Syria Support Group led by the U.S. and Russia, and calls on that body to reconvene at ministerial level.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee pulled out of formal, though not "technical" talks, earlier this week, as it accused President Bashar Assad's government of violating the cease-fire and hampering the flow of aid to besieged areas.

Speaking to reporters Friday, de Mistura took issue with the government's recent claim that it was not besieging any towns or villages. He says the international community counts 18 priority besieged areas in Syria: 15 by the government, two by the armed opposition, and one by the Islamic State group.

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6:30 p.m.

France's foreign minister says the negotiations over Syria's political future have entered a "danger zone."

Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters in Paris on Friday that humanitarian access to besieged areas in Syria "must be total," saying there have been "too many fetters."

The Syrian opposition has stepped away from indirect talks in Geneva, accusing the government of repeatedly violating a U.S. and Russia-brokered cease-fire that took effect in late February.

The High Negotiations Committee, which represents the opposition at the U.N.-brokered talks, says the government has also illegally detained thousands of people and blocked humanitarian aid access.

The government has denied allegations it is blocking aid deliveries.

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5 p.m.

Activists say Syrian government forces and Kurdish fighters are clashing for a third day in the northeastern city of Qamishli, with at least seven people killed.

Lezkin Ibrahim, a Kurdish media activist in Qamishli, says the fighting Friday was concentrated in the city center, forcing residents to stay indoors and shops to close.

He says Hawar news, the outlet where he works, has recorded 10 civilians and six Kurdish fighters killed. He says the wounded are being taken to neighboring towns for treatment because local hospitals are blocked by the fighting.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through activists on the ground, says the clashes killed seven, including a child and a woman.

Kurdish forces, who have carved out a zone of semi-autonomy in northern Syria, seized the Alaya prison in Qamishli on Thursday after government forces inside it surrendered.

Ibrahim says the fighting started after government forces attacked a Kurdish security patrol, killing two of its members on Tuesday. He says government artillery have shelled the city for the first time, and that government helicopters flew over the city on Friday.

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4 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's envoy to peace talks in Geneva is defending his government's record on humanitarian aid.

The opposition has repeatedly accused Damascus of deliberately blocking shipments, and the U.N. has made several appeals for it to do more to help.

Government envoy Bashar Ja'afari on Friday lashed out at the opposition for shedding "crocodile tears" about alleged humanitarian aid lapses.

Ja'afari spoke to reporters at U.N. offices in Geneva where indirect peace talks and other meetings on Syria's crisis have been held in recent months. He says his delegation will meet with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura again on Monday.

The opposition High Negotiations Committee has pulled back from the peace talks, accusing the government of hundreds of violations of a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia, illegally detaining thousands of Syrians and blocking humanitarian aid.

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1:35 p.m.

Anti-government activists say airstrikes in Syria's northern city of Aleppo have killed at least seven people in rebel-held areas.

The airstrikes Friday reportedly occurred in a southwestern suburb of the divided city.

Aleppo has seen sporadic clashes since the February 27 cease-fire, as government troops advanced, boxing in rebel-held areas from all sides except for a corridor from the northwestern edge of the city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 10 people were killed in the airstrikes in Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood and other parts of the city.

Two activist-operated media outlets, the Syrian Revolution Network and Azaz Media center, say at least seven people were killed. The discrepancy couldn't immediately be reconciled but divergent death tolls are common soon after attacks.