Paris and Washington have slammed the Syrian regime for continuing airstrikes against rebels during planned peace discussions in Geneva. Opposition forces have said they will not negotiate until the strikes stop.
UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura put planned Syria peace talks on hold Wednesday while the US and France accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad of undermining the discussions. De Mistura has insisted that this was "not the end or the failure of the talks" and vowed that they would resume on February 25.
The Geneva meeting, tipped to be the biggest stride towards a ceasefire in the nearly five-year-old conflict, broke apart when the Assad regime bombarded a rebel supply route into Aleppo. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the umbrella group representing opposition forces opposed to both Assad and "Islamic State" militants, announced it was pulling out of the talks until the Syrian president and his Russian allies stopped the airstrikes.
France: Russia and Assad 'torpedoing' truce
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Damascus and Moscow were "torpedoing the peace efforts," while his US counterpart John Kerry said the bombardment proved Assad had no desire for a truce.
"The continued assault by Syrian regime forces - enabled by Russian air strikes against opposition-held areas... have clearly signaled the intention to seek a military solution rather than enable a political one," read a statement from Kerry.
De Mistura is charged with convincing both the Assad regime and the HNC to begin six months of "proximity talks." But the HNC, whose representatives already arrived in Geneva with some hesitation, have said they will not talk to the regime unless it meets three conditions: taking immediate action to allow aid to reach embattled cities, a cessation to airstrikes in civilian areas, and the release of thousands of prisoners.
The HNC "will not return until the humanitarian demands are met or (we) see something on the ground," its chief coordinator, Riad Hijab, said late on Wednesday.
The Syrian Civil War has killed over 260,000 people and turned half the nation's population into refugees since 2011. Taking advantage of the chaos, "Islamic State" jihadists declared Syria part of their "caliphate" in June 2014 and added a new dimension to the protracted conflict.
es/jr (AFP, Reuters)