Syrian peace talks again delayed as deadline passes

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Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups won’t resume next week as planned, the United Nation’s Syrian envoy said.

“I cannot realistically call new Geneva talks for 25th of February,” Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, said in an interview with Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagblad. “We need 10 days preparation and invitations. But we aim to do so soon.”

De Mistura’s comments come as a self-imposed deadline for a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria by Friday will pass with little progress.

Last Friday, the United States and Russia announced they and other world powers had come to an agreement to end hostilities in Syria within a week as a precursor to resume peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition groups.

The United States, Russia and other members of the so-called International Syrian Support Group were scheduled to meet later Friday in Geneva to discuss the agreement.

The violence hasn’t let up this week, as Russia continued airstrikes against opposition groups in northern Syria.

Still, some progress was made as humanitarian aid was allowed to reach five besieged areas.

U.S. lawmakers had been skeptical of the agreement when it was announced last week.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week it was “just words on paper.”

And Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the committee, said he was skeptical Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad would act in good faith.

U.N.-led peace talks between opposition groups and the Syrian regime were suspended earlier this month just a week after they officially began.

De Mistura told the Swedish newspaper it’s up to Russia and the United States to agree on how to impose the cessation. Peace talks won’t resume until then, he said.

“We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks,” de Mistura said. “Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities.”