U.N. Mediator Tries To Revive Cease-Fire In Syria As Fighting Intensifies

May 3, 2016
Originally published on May 4, 2016 5:08 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Top negotiators from the United States, Russia and the U.N. are trying to save the crumbling cease-fire in Syria. The cease-fire agreement did bring relative calm to some parts of the country, but the fighting has only gotten worse around the city of Aleppo. Airstrikes and shellings there have killed hundreds of civilians. And just this morning, Syrian state TV says dozens were killed when rebel rocket fire hit a hospital. NPR's Corey Flintoff has the view on the Syrian peace talks from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The cease-fire that was announced in February has brought relative calm to some parts of Syria but even more savage fighting in Aleppo, where the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is fighting rebel forces, including some backed by the United States. Russia has been strongly supporting Assad with airstrikes, weapons and special operations troops on the ground. The U.N. special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has been calling on Russia and the United States to pressure the various sides in Syria to stop the fighting. After today's meeting in Moscow, he sounded guardedly optimistic that a new cease-fire could be announced today.

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STAFFAN DE MISTURA: What the Syrians want to hear is no bombs, no rockets, no shelling so that they can start believing in what we are trying to do with them.

FLINTOFF: Speaking through an interpreter, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia and the U.S. will create a center in Geneva to monitor the cease-fire.

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FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEY LAVROV: (Through interpreter) We will have a permanent monitoring center where U.S. and Russian counterparts will work together to make sure that any violations are nipped in the bud.

FLINTOFF: Each diplomat also brought up a potential snag in the next step of the talks. De Mistura said that the key to peace in Syria is a political transition, while Lavrov called on the United States to make sure its partners don't issue what he called ultimatums. The Syrian opposition has insisted that the main condition for peace is that Assad must go. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.