UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Turkey's foreign minister said Thursday that cease-fire violations in Syria are the main obstacle to holding peace negotiations later this month and he called on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on those continuing the violence.
Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at U.N. headquarters where he discussed Syria with new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that if the talks go ahead in Kazakhstan's capital Astana they will be based on a roadmap to peace agreed to by key powers in Geneva in 2012. It starts with the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers agreed to by both sides and ends with elections.
Turkey, a strong supporter of Syria's moderate opposition, and Russia, which backs President Bashar Assad, brokered the cease-fire which came into effect on Dec. 30, and has mostly held but not altogether halted fighting in the country. The government and opposition have blamed each other for violations.
Cavusoglu said monitoring centers in Ankara and Moscow have been collecting and reporting violations and the latest list which he received Thursday is "worrying me."
While the government and opposition have various groups supporting them, the Turkish minister said, "when I look at the list today there is no single violation by the opposition."
"All the violations, including the bombardments, are by the regime or its supporters or other groups," Cavusoglu said. "This is not acceptable. So this is the main obstacle."
Nearly a dozen rebel groups announced on Monday they were suspending talks about the negotiations because of cease-fire violations.
Cavusoglu said another obstacle is the composition of negotiating teams for the Astana talks, which under the deal that was signed, is up to the regime and the opposition to decide.
The Turkish minister said he discussed the U.N.'s role with Guterres and "the U.N. will have a leading role in Astana," assuming the meeting goes ahead.
He said U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will be there. De Mistura has set Feb. 8 for the next round of U.N.-mediated talks on Syria in Geneva.
Cavusoglu said both sides, but especially the Syrian government, must respect the cease-fire agreement they signed.
He said there is work taking place on sanctions against violators.
"There should be sanctions because otherwise you cannot control this and you cannot go to the political talks, Astana or Geneva," he said.
Cavusoglu said nothing has been finalized yet about sanctions, but "maybe we need another Security Council resolution."