The Latest: 20 countries seeking Syria peace may meet in NY

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2016 8:19 PM
The Latest: 20 countries seeking Syria peace may meet in NY

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria, where a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia has come into effect (all times local):


3:15 a.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says if the cessation of hostilities holds there may be a meeting of the coalition of some 20 countries trying to end the conflict on the sidelines of next week's gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York.

Staffan de Mistura said the meeting of the International Syria Support Group — which includes regional and world powers and Syria's neighbors — may be held before a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Syria on Sept. 21.

If the coalition meets, the political process needs to be on the horizon and invitations for a new round of political talks could follow, he said.

De Mistura said an announcement is expected late Wednesday or Thursday from the U.S. and Russia on whether the cease-fire is holding.


9:30 p.m.

Saudi Arabia has welcomed the U.S. and Russian-brokered truce in Syria and urged the Syrian government and its allies to abide by it.

In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry says it is following the cease-fire with interest and hopes it will help alleviate suffering among the "brotherly Syrian people."

The ministry says it also hopes for the resumption of talks aimed at ensuring a peaceful political transition in accordance with U.N resolutions.

Saudi Arabia, which backs the opposition, says no political transition is possible unless Syrian President Bashar Assad steps down.

The cease-fire has largely held since it went into effect at sunset on Monday, with only sporadic violations reported.


9 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria is hailing a "significant drop in violence" over the first 24 hours of a new cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia.

Staffan de Mistura says no U.N. humanitarian aid trucks have yet moved across the Turkish border into Syria. He says U.N. officials are awaiting assurances that drivers of aid trucks will be "unhindered and untouched."

De Mistura says no letters of authorization from Syria's government are needed under the U.S. and Russian arrangement, only a simple "notification" to Damascus about the contents of the trucks that "have not yet moved."

He says aid for rebel-held eastern Aleppo is a top priority. He says a key concern about the overall cease-fire is whether sporadic "incidents" snowball to threaten the deal.


8:45 p.m.

Syria's state news agency says a rebel attack on electricity lines feeding the southern region of Quneitra has caused a blackout in the province.

The state news agency says rebels based in the neighboring rural Damascus province carried out the attack Tuesday, just 24 hours after a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire came into effect.

It quotes an electricity company official as saying the attack caused a province-wide blackout.

Insurgent groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, say they launched an offensive against government troops in rural Quneitra on Tuesday.


8:30 p.m.

Dozens of people in Syria's Aleppo are protesting against the United Nations ahead of an expected aid delivery, saying that they want a government siege lifted so they don't have to rely on humanitarian assistance.

The U.N. is expected to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo in the coming hours as part of a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that took effect on Monday.

But Modar Shekho, a 28-year old nurse, says residents of rebel-held Aleppo don't want food aid, but an end to a government siege of the area, where some 250,000 people still reside.

One banner carried by the protesters on Tuesday reads: "Hunger is better than humiliation."

Shekho says the cease-fire will only serve Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. He says the promised U.N. aid doesn't cover essentials such as fuel or medical supplies.


6 p.m.

The Russian military says U.S.-backed rebels have repeatedly violated a cease-fire in Syria, but that the nearly day-old truce has largely held.

Col. Sergei Kopytsyn says in a video call from an area near Aleppo that six people have been killed and another 10 have been wounded in the northern city since the truce went into force at sunset Monday.

Separately, he says two Syrian government troops were killed and another soldier was wounded by opposition shelling of the Castello road, a key route leading to rebel-held parts of Aleppo, on Monday night.

Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir, of the Russian military's General Staff, says there have been 23 cease-fire violations by U.S- backed opposition units since the start of the truce.


5:40 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says two Syrians wounded in an attack by Syrian government forces have been rushed to a hospital in Turkey.

Anadolu says the two were wounded Tuesday in the countryside near the rebel-held city of Idlib in the province of the same name, which borders Turkey.

A U.S. and Russia-brokered cease-fire that came into effect on Monday has mostly held, with only sporadic and minor violations reported in different parts of Syria.

The architects of the truce hope it can pave the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas and lead to the resumption of peace talks aimed at ending the 5 ½ year conflict.


3:45 p.m.

Al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate has criticized the U.S.-Russia cease-fire deal, saying its aim is to defeat Islamic jihad and weaken insurgents in Syria.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, also praised in a statement on Tuesday other insurgent factions in Syria, which have criticized the deal for excluding the al-Qaida affiliate.

The Nusra Front changed its name in July, announcing it cut links with the al-Qaida terror network.

Both the al-Qaida-linked group and its larger rival, the Islamic State group, are not part of the cease-fire deal, which allows Syrian government forces to continue fighting against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham for the first week of the truce.

If calm holds for seven days, the U.S. and Russia would then set up a new cooperation center that would jointly develop strategies to combat Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

The U.S. urged Syrian rebel factions to distance themselves from the group.


3:10 p.m.

A Syrian activist group that tracks the country's civil war says more than 300,000 people have been killed so far in the conflict.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the dead include 59,000 government troops and more than 86,000 civilians. The rest include rebels, foreign fighters, Hezbollah militants, defectors from the Syrian army and others.

The Observatory says its records show that since the crisis began in March 2011 and until a truce went into effect on Monday evening, 301,781 people have been killed in Syria.

The group says the real death toll could be 70,000 higher since many insurgent groups don't announce their deaths and because there are other deaths that are not documented.

The latest death toll figure from the U.N., which stopped tracking casualties in 2015, had said that 250,000 have been killed in Syria.


2:35 p.m.

The Islamic State group has released a gory video in which its fighters are seen killing 19 people from Syria's eastern province, accusing them of being spies for the West.

In the 12-minute video, the narrator mocks U.S. and Western intelligence agencies for being unable to prevent IS fighters from carrying out attacks in France, Belgium and Germany.

Instead, the IS narrator says, Western intelligence recruited the 19-member spy cell to infiltrate Deir el-Zour province, an IS stronghold.

The video comes as a U.S-Russian brokered cease-fire is starting to take hold in parts of Syria.


2:25 p.m.

Turkey's foreign minister is accusing the Syrian government of not abiding by a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in the coastal city of Antalya on Tuesday the Syrian government broke the cease-fire immediately after it came into effect the previous evening.

Cavusoglu says he hopes all parties will work to make the cease-fire permanent and that efforts "cannot be one-sided."

Turkey's military said earlier in the day that it shelled two targets inside Syria after a mortar round fell inside Turkey, minutes after a cease-fire came into effect. It said the mortar round was fired from Syrian government-controlled territory.

Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey will work to bring peace to Syria, but will also continue fighting the Islamic State group and Syrian Kurdish rebels it sees as a threat.


2:15 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says 20 U.N. trucks have left Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.

The shipment comes as a cease-fire, brokered by the United States and Russia, is holding across most of the country.

The Anadolu agency says the trucks left around noon Tuesday from the Cilvegozu border gate in the southern province of Hatay. A total of 40 trucks are expected to cross the border by the end of the day.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that "food, clothing and children's toys" were to be delivered by the United Nations as well as the Turkish Red Crescent through corridors opened up by the cease-fire, which went into effect at sunset.


1:40 p.m.

The Russian foreign ministry is pushing to make public the text a cease-fire deal for Syria that Russia and the United States agreed to after marathon talks in Geneva last week.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow wants the deal, which launched a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, to be made public but that the U.S. opposes such a move.

Lavrov said Moscow "has nothing to hide" and wants the U.N. Security Council to formally approve the Syria truce deal as well.

Syria observer say the cease-fire appears to be holding for now after it came into effect at sunset Monday.


1 p.m.

Two former U.N. envoys for Syria say they are hopeful that the Russia-U.S.-brokered cease-fire in the country will stand.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the agreement appears to be holding, despite some minor skirmishes. Annan was the U.N. first special envoy for Syria, lasting six months before resigning in August 2012 after failing to secure sufficient backing for a peace deal.

His successor, Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, says he is praying the new deal will work. Brahimi told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that the cease-fire should be seen as a first step, and even if fighting resumes, "the Russians and the Americans will continue to work together."

Brahimi was the U.N. envoy for Syria from 2012 until 2014, when he was succeeded by incumbent Staffan de Mistura.


12:45 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator says it needs to make sure its staff and partners "are not in mortal danger" before starting convoys into parts of Syria under a new cease-fire plan.

OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke says humanitarian aid teams are ready to move into areas such as the troubled northern city of Aleppo. He said the agency needs "peace to be reinstated before we can go in."

Laerke told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that he did not know who would make the final assessment when conditions were safe enough for deliveries to resume.

He says no deliveries had been made since the U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire went into effect on Monday at sunset. The deal is expected to pave the way for U.N.-led aid convoys to resume.


12:20 p.m.

Turkey's military says it has shelled two targets inside Syria after a mortar round struck inside Turkey minutes after a cease-fire came into effect in Syria the previous evening.

Maj. Gen. Ertugrulgazi Ozkurkcu said in a statement on Tuesday that the mortar round was determined to have been fired from Syrian government-controlled territory.

It exploded near the border in Turkey's southern Hatay province shortly after 7:00pm local time Monday.

The statement says Turkish artillery responded with six rounds against two targets, in line with the Turkish military's rules of engagement.

A U.S-Russia-brokered cease-fire appeared to be holding on Tuesday in Syria, despite sporadic and minor violations.


10:35 a.m.

The Syrian military says its forces have shot down two Israeli aircraft — a warplane and a drone — near the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

The report came as a U.S.-Russia-brokered truce appeared to be holding in Syria on Tuesday, after coming into effect the night before.

The Israeli military quickly denied the Syrian claim. It says that "two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after the mission overnight to target Syrian artillery positions" but that the safety of Israeli planes was not compromised.

The Syrian military statement, reported by the state news agency SANA and state TV, says the Israeli plane was shot down during Israeli air raids on Syrian army positions early on Tuesday. A drone was shot down as well nearby.

Israeli warplanes have conducted several air raids on Syrian army positions over the past weeks after stray shells hit the Israeli-occupied area.

Syria and Israel have been at a state of war for decades. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war


10 a.m.

Syrian opposition activists and monitoring groups say the cease-fire in Syria appears to be holding since coming into effect the previous night, despite sporadic and minor violations.

Rami Abdurrahman from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says "calm is prevailing" in most of the country on Tuesday, though there were minor violations in central Hama province.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees reported some shelling in Aleppo and the southern region of Quneitra, while state media said there were "breaches" of the truce by rebels in the contested city of Aleppo.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist in the southern province of Daraa — where Syria's crisis began in 2011 — says the region was also calm.

The weeklong, U.S.- and Russia-brokered cease-fire started at sunset Monday.