UNITED NATIONS (AP) — While the time is not yet right for new peace talks in Syria, failing to get a serious agreement soon makes a further escalation of the country's nearly five-year-old civil war all too likely United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.
Ban said that his special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, speaking earlier in Geneva, has declined to set a date for a third round of talks because "the time is not yet mature."
"We don't want to have talks for the sake of talks. At the same time, I want to underline the great urgency of the deadline of early August set by the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group," Ban said. "We have to have at least the beginnings of a serious agreement by then. Without a political horizon and discussions on the transition, a further escalation is all too likely."
He also called on the Syrian government to allow unhindered humanitarian access to civilians within the war torn country, pointing out that "withholding humanitarian assistance to civilians in desperate need is a war crime."
The U.N. estimates that there are currently 592,700 people living under siege in Syria with the vast majority of them, some 452,700, besieged by government forces.
The U.N. said the Syrian government has approved access to 15 of the 19 besieged areas within Syria.
De Mistura said, however, he was taking a wait and see approach.
"Of course, you know very well that approval, and we know very well, does not mean delivery," Mistura told reporters in Geneva. "In the next few hours, we hope to see some of that approval actually become concrete. That is the test, of course, as always."
In the past, the Syrian government has approved humanitarian convoys into besieged areas only to stop them at the last moment at a road block or to remove medicines and other supplies intended for civilians, de Mistura said.