Syria ceasefire "broadly" holding but peace talks postponed to 20 February

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Staffan de Mistura. UN Photo/Mark Garten

The ceasefire in Syria is "broadly" holding but UN-led peace talks in Geneva have been postponed until 20 February to improve chances of a deal.

That's the message from the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, speaking to reporters outside the Security Council in New York on Tuesday.

Matthew Wells has more.

After nearly six years of brutal civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced millions, the current ceasefire looks like it stands the most chance of success, said the UN envoy.

He said this was because 13 armed groups had held direct talks with the Syrian Government in the Russian, Turkish and Iranian-backed talks held earlier this month in Astana, Kazakhstan, and there was now "serious intent" to negotiate further.

But Mr de Mistura told reporters that meeting under the auspices of the UN in Geneva as planned on 8 February was too soon, and explained why a delay could be beneficial.

"If the ceasefire becomes as solid as we hope that will only help the serious talks to actually be concrete. Secondly, we want to give a chance both to the Government to come seriously engaged in concessions and discussions, and we want the opposition – because things are changing radically and rapidly – to be able to be given a chance to come with one unified opposition."

Without internal agreement however, the UN envoy said he would invoke his right as chief mediator, for the first time, to select which opposition figures should attend.

With tens of thousands of Syrian civilians still going hungry and in need of urgent supplies across besieged and hard to reach areas, he said there was no reason for aid deliveries to be held up, while the fragile ceasefire holds.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1'21"

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