UN-sponsored Syria peace talks scheduled for February

UN-sponsored Syria peace talks scheduled for February
The UN said it has scheduled a fresh round of peace talks to resolve Syria's humanitarian and political crisis in February, officials confirmed on Monday.
2 min read
20 December, 2016
The UN said peace talks will be held in February [AFP]

New peace talks designed to resolve the ongoing humanitarian and political crisis in Geneva have been scheduled in for February, officials said.

"It is the intention of the United Nations to convene those negotiations in Geneva on 8 February 2017," UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said after the Security Council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution to monitor evacuations from Aleppo, with Russia's backing.

Meanwhile in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said that the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey could "disrupt" the peace process in Syria and harm Turkish-Russian ties.

Damascus denounced the "despicable" murder of Karlov, who was shot dead by a gunman who reportedly shouted "Aleppo" and "revenge".

James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at think tank Chatham House, said the diplomat's murder could "affect" Aleppo evacuations.

After an agonising delay, the operation resumed under a complex agreement that will see regime forces exert full control over Syria's second city.

The government had suspended evacuations on Friday, insisting that people also be allowed to leave two northwestern villages under rebel siege.

The Britain-based Observatory said at least 14,000 people, including 4,000 rebels, have left the opposition sector since the evacuations began on Thursday while at least 7,000 remain.

A rebel representative said hundreds of people would also be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya, two army-besieged rebel towns near the border with Lebanon, as part of the deal.

Residents of east Aleppo - a rebel bastion since 2012 - had already lived under four months of suffocating siege when Syria's army began its blistering assault in mid-November to retake the whole city.

In an 11th-hour deal, regime ally Moscow and rebel supporter Ankara agreed on the evacuation of thousands of civilians and fighters from the last remaining opposition-held pocket in Aleppo.

Moscow, which has carried out an air war in support of the Syrian regime since September 2015, had threatened to veto the Security Council draft resolution calling for monitors to oversee the protection of civilians.

But on Monday, the council unanimously adopted the French-drafted text in the first show of unity in months among world powers grappling with the crisis.

The measure tasks the UN with carrying out "adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations from eastern Aleppo and other districts of the city".

The foreign and defence ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran are set to meet in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss Syria.