Syria peace talks set to resume amid ceasefire warnings

 

GENEVA: Syria’s warring sides gathered in Geneva Sunday for UN-brokered indirect peace talks as the United States and France warned the Damascus regime against trying to disrupt the fragile ceasefire.

As the fifth anniversary of the violence looms, the main players in the conflict were on Monday to resume negotiations in the latest bid to end bloodshed which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura met representatives of both delegations on Sunday for “informal meetings” ahead of the negotiations. He has said that the round of Geneva talks would not last more than 10 days.

In Paris, after meeting European allies, US Secretary of State John Kerry hit out at comments by his Syrian counterpart who said talk of removing President Bashar al-Assad would be a “red line” in the talks.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault went further, calling Walid Muallem’s comments a “provocation” and a “bad sign” in the peace efforts for Syria. Kerry warned Damascus and its allies Russia and Iran against “testing boundaries” or lessening their compliance with a fragile February 27 truce that has largely held despite the sides trading mutual accusations of violations.

While analysts say much has changed since the last round of indirect talks collapsed in February, Assad’s fate and the holding of elections within 18 months remain huge obstacles. AFP