UN eyes new round of Syria talks

Children play near damaged buildings in the rebel held historic southern town of Bosra al-Sham, Deraa, Syria February 23, 2016.

Children play near damaged buildings in the rebel held historic southern town of Bosra al-Sham, Deraa, Syria February 23, 2016.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura will announce Friday – the day when the expected ceasefire will take place – a date for a new round of talks between Syria’s warring parties.

Countries belonging to the “International Syria Support Group” will also hold a meeting of their ceasefire taskforce on Friday, De Mistura said told reporters on Thursday.

That would be the first meeting of the taskforce, and follows a U.S.-Russia proposal for a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria.

Russian concerns

Meanwhile, Russia expressed its concerns after U.S. statements talking about a “Plan B” for Syria if the proposed ceasefire fails, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday, the TASS news agency reported.

“U.S. statements on the availability of some Plan B give rise to concern. We know nothing about it,” Bogdanov was cited as saying.

Russia and the United States have set a deadline of midnight Damascus time (2200 GMT) Friday for the “cessation of hostilities” between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and non-jihadist rebel forces.

The deal, which marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end the five-year conflict in Syria, excludes ISIS and other Sunni extremists.

On Wednesday, both the Syrian regime and the opposition agreed to ceasefire on Friday. Syria’s main opposition grouping said it would respect a provisional ceasefire in Syria “for two weeks.”

Turkey on Syria ceasefire

On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a ceasefire agreed between Syria’s warring parties was only valid inside Syria and was “not binding” for Turkey if its national security was threatened.

“It must be known that the ceasefire is valid in Syria,” Davutoglu said in televised remarks in the central Anatolian province of Konya.

“When it is a question of Turkey’s security, then the ceasefire is not binding for us,” he added.

Turkey on successive days last week targeted Kurdish fighters inside Syria with artillery barrages, saying that the army was responding to incoming fire, and had repeatedly reserved the right to open fire again.

Davutoglu said Turkey would closely monitor how the ceasefire would be implemented, adding: “We support the ceasefire under any circumstances.”


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