Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Opposition Suspends Peace Talks to Protest Truce Violations

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Opposition Suspends Peace Talks to Protest Truce Violations

Article excerpt

BEIRUT - Syrian opposition negotiators and rebels temporarily withdrew Monday from U.N.-brokered peace talks and vowed to strike back in reaction to the government's alleged cease-fire violations.

While an opposition spokesman said his side had "decided to postpone" the talks that started Wednesday in Geneva, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura clarified that the delegation had left an opening.

The delegates would suspend their participation in official meetings at U.N. offices in the Swiss city, he said.

"They told us, however, their intention to remain in Geneva in their hotel and possibly, at my own suggestion, to pursue technical discussions with myself and my team," Mr. de Mistura told reporters.

The opposition decided that continuing negotiations despite a lack of progress on humanitarian issues and escalating cease-fire breaches would be "increasing the ordeal of our people," spokesman Ahmed Ramadan said.

Mr. de Mistura has been shuttling between the regime and the opposition teams, rather than bringing them to the same table.

President Barack Obama telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express concern about the status of the Syrian cease-fire and push Mr. Putin to pressure the Russian-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop attacks against the opposition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday that direct talks between the government and a broad opposition delegation should be launched as part of the Geneva talks.

He also denied allegations that Moscow and Washington were negotiating the departure of Assad behind closed doors.

In the Geneva talks, the opposition has been demanding a transitional government without the involvement of Assad, while the government side has ruled out an early departure of the president.

Earlier Monday, several major Syrian rebel factions vowed to retaliate against government forces for alleged violations of the cessation of hostilities, in a further sign that the war-torn country's cease-fire is teetering. …

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