The Guardian reports: Bombs hitting hospitals, doctors and rescue workers killed, civilians starving, scores of dead and injured every day – the raw, bleeding statistics of Syria’s unending war are making a nonsense of an already fragile truce and destroying the slim hopes that peace talks can even carry on.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, is a consummate diplomat, but this week he has struggled to mask a sense of rising panic – appealing to the US and Russia to come together to stave off what his humanitarian coordinator warned on Thursday would be a new “catastrophe” if violence did not stop.
De Mistura reported privately to the UN security council on Wednesday on the latest “proximity” talks in Geneva, where he met the two Syrian sides separately. Opposition negotiators walked out last week, insisting they could not stay in the Palais des Nations while their people were suffering on the ground.
“How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?” De Mistura asked journalists afterwards. “Barely alive” was his blunt characterisation of the truce. And diplomats said he spoke far more forcefully on the video link to New York. [Continue reading…]
The Associated Press reports: Looking out from the Syrian capital these days, one can understand why President Bashar Assad would be in no hurry to make concessions at peace talks in Geneva, let alone consider stepping down as the opposition demands.
In Damascus, it is easy to forget the war. The airstrikes, the ruins and starvation, sometimes only few miles away, seem distant and unseen. Since a partial cease-fire went into effect at the end of February, the mortar shells from opposition-held suburbs have all but stopped. On Saturday, the Interior Ministry said a number of mortar shells fell in two Damascus neighborhoods, including one several hundred meters from the Russian embassy. There were no reported injuries.
With the road to the loyalist coast and most of central Syria completely cleared of insurgents, Assad has guaranteed the survival of a rump state that he could rule over should the war continue for a long time. Even if Assad’s forces have little chance of regaining large parts of the country in the near term, Russia’s military intervention changed the conflict’s course in their favor and has boosted their confidence. [Continue reading…]