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UN-brokered Syria talks unlikely to resume next week

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura says peace talks won't resume in Geneva on February 25 as he had previously hoped. Turkey has intensified cross-border shelling of areas dominated by Kurdish militia.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, has reportedly told a Swedish newspaper that it would be unrealistic to resume

talks to end Syria's war

on February 25.

De Mistura is believed to have told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that he cannot "realistically" get the parties in the civil war back to the table by next week, "but we intend to do so soon," he said.

"We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks," de Mistura reportedly said.

De Mistura halted talks February 3 after

expanded airstrikes by Russia

and a broad

ground offensive by Syria's regime

made a swift, peaceful resolution unlikely. Government forces have recently recaptured villages and towns across Syria.

"We need ten days of preparations and invitations," De Mistura reportedly told the newspaper. "But we will aim to do this soon." He added: "I cannot say when I will call for talks. We have been disappointed in the past. Now I am pragmatic and determined."

'Complicating everything'

The predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces have evicted opposition fighters and militants from areas near the border with

Turkey

in Aleppo province. The SDF has become one of the most effective forces fighting

the "Islamic State" group

on the ground.

SDF gains in the area south of the city of Azaz have triggered several days of Turkish shelling that mainly targeted areas recently captured by the group. Turkish officials blame the SDF, Kurdish People's Protection Units in Syria and Kurds in Turkey for a bombing that killed 28 people in Ankara on Wednesday.

Intensified shelling

On Thursday night Turkish troops intensified the shelling with ongoing barrages that lasted until early Friday. An SDF official said Turkish troops had bombed the group's positions in border areas, killing civilians.

Ahmad al-Omar said the shelling hit several areas, including the town of Jandairis. Late Thursday, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported that artillery shells had "intermittently" targeted militia positions near Azaz.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the shelling on areas in northern Syria had lasted seven hours, killing two and wounding others.

"Turkey is complicating everything and it might complicate things further," UN envoy de Mistura told the Swedish newspaper. "This is a reason for more urgency. Major countries must realize that we need to put a lid on what can become even more of a regional and proxy conflict. Any type of further conflict along the border of Syria has the potential to spin out of control."

mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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