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Syria ceasefire talks fail as Aleppo faces new government offensive

Russia and the United States have failed to agree on terms to restore a short-lived ceasefire in Syria. Meanwhile, violence flared up anew as the Syrian army announced the start of a new offensive in areas of Aleppo.

The International Syria Support Group, which includes Russia, the US and other major powers, failed to reach a decision by the end of Thursday to resuscitate a ceasefire in Syria.

"It was a long, painful, difficult and disappointing meeting," the United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters. He added that the US and Russia agreed to continue working towards a solution.

"We can't go out to the world and say we have an agreement when we don't," Secretary of State John Kerry said after the meeting. "I am no less determined today than I was yesterday but I am even more frustrated," he added.

A ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US on September 9 hoped to push forward Syria's peace process, including a nationwide truce and humanitarian aid access. The agreement, however, disintegrated after only one week when an aid convoy was bombed on Monday.

Watch video 01:38

Syrian regime starts new offensive

No agreement on no-fly zone

Kerry called for Russia and President Bashar al-Assad to halt flights over Syrian battle zones, a call which was echoed by several other nations.

"We have not succeeded so far, but there was a lot of support around the table for the proposal, a temporary ban for all flights in order to create the conditions for the truce," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

The idea, however, has been rejected by Russia and also Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, saying there was "no logic" to stopping the Syrian government planes, as they are one of Assad's few military advantages.

"Absent a major gesture like this, we don't believe there is a point to making more promises or issuing more plans or announcing something that can't be reached," Kerry said.

Assault in Aleppo

De Mistura noted that Russian and US efforts to restore the ceasefire had "been de facto undermined by others who have so far not wanted or have tried to not deliver on this cessation of hostilities," including the Syrian government forces, as well as some opposition groups that have hindered humanitarian aid delivery.

Watch video 06:41

Can US, Russia cooperate in Syria?

On Thursday the Syrian army announced it would launch a new offensive in rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo - defying the truce.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based watchdog group, described the latest army attack as "a large-scale land offensive supported by Russian air strikes."

The UN resumed its aid deliveries on Thursday, after trucks were temporarily halted due to the deadly strike on a convoy in the north of Syria.

Other trucks are still waiting at the Turkish-Syrian border for approval for aid to areas in Aleppo. UN officials are concerned that the much-needed food on board the trucks will soon go bad if not delivered soon.

The war in Syria has killed over a half-million people and contributed to Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

rs/kl (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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