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UN envoy to Syria to consult Security Council on peace talks

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 26, 2016. De Mistura says he’ll speak to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday and announce afterward plans for a resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and the opposition. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 26, 2016. De Mistura says he’ll speak to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday and announce afterward plans for a resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and the opposition. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Syria said he will speak to the U.N. Security Council later on Thursday, May 26,2016 and after that, announce plans for the resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and the opposition.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura said he will ask the council for “the best options for the resumption of the talks” but that he was not ready to announce a planned date for the next round of negotiations before seeking the council’s guidance.

However, he noted a sense of urgency for resuming the talks before August 1 — a previously announced deadline for an agreement.

De Mistura said for the talks to be credible, there needs to be “credible ground, based on humanitarian improvement and on cessation of hostilities improvement and stabilization.”

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in first week of June, “will not be a factor” in determining the talks’ timetable, de Mistura added.

Also Thursday, the U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator for Syria, Jan Egeland, sounded alarm bells, saying the threat of children dying from malnutrition hangs over at least three communities besieged by government troops.

Access to besieged areas in Syria has fallen short of what was planned for May, Egeland said. Out of 1 million people, only 160,000 have been reached with aid so far, he said, citing problems including government restrictions.

Two Damascus suburbs, Daraya and Moadamiyeh, and a district in the central city of Homs, al-Waer, all besieged by government forces, are locations where the situation “is still horrendously critical,” he added. “Children are so malnourished in these places that they will be dying if we are not able to reach them.”

Additionally, activists in Daraya said government forces shelled several areas in the town Thursday, attempting to advance from the south in violation of a cease-fire. There were no reports of casualties.

The International Support Group of Syria, which includes the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, had set a June 1 deadline for the resumption of humanitarian aid to areas cut off from the outside world, saying if land routes remain blocked, food aid will be air dropped.

At least seven hundred tons of aid has been air dropped on at least 110,000 people in areas besieged by Islamic State fighters in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

De Mistura said the World Food Program is preparing new aid drops but the government of Syria needs to cooperate more to make them happen.

Activists in besieged areas of Damascus and Homs appealed in a Facebook statement to the Syrian opposition to boycott any future talks until aid is allowed in.

Considering air drops “is a shy step by an international community promising to impose a political solution on the regime, yet incapable thus far of compelling it to allow humanitarian aid,” the statement said.

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Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

 

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