Syrian government agrees to ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta: UN envoy

Press TV – The Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire in the militant-held Eastern Ghouta region following days of heavy conflict, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says.

“Russia has proposed and the government has accepted a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta,” de Mistura told reporters on the sidelines of the eighth round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday.

Eastern Ghouta is one of the four de-escalation zones agreed upon by the Syrian warring sides during the fourth round of Astana discussions in May, mediated by Iran, Russia and Turkey.

The implementation of the de-escalation zone initially reduced violence in Eastern Ghouta which has been under siege since 2013, but in recent weeks violence has increased considerably.

According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 120 people have been killed in the clashes over the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, a UN aid convoy entered Nashabieh in East Ghouta to deliver food, health and nutrition items for 7,200 people in need.

Spokeswoman for World Food Programme (WFP) Dina Al Kassaby warned on Tuesday that the situation in Eastern Ghouta is “absolutely desperate.”

Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) deliver humanitarian relief packages in the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta region on November 12, 2017. (AFP photo)

She pointed to the high rates of malnutrition among children, adding, “People are eating garbage and animal fodder.”

UN officials stressed that nearly 400,000 people who face the dire conditions in the region need immediate access to aid.

Geneva talks

Meanwhile, the representatives of Syria’s Saudi-backed opposition are in Geneva for a fresh round of UN-led peace talks. A delegation from the Syrian government will be arriving in Geneva on Wednesday to join the talks.

Previous rounds of negotiations over the past five years have failed to achieve a tangible result, mainly due to the opposition’s insistence that Assad should cede power.

Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said in Geneva on Monday evening that Assad’s departure should be set before the start of any transition process.

That condition seems no longer tenable due to Syria’s continued victories against the militants in the recent past.

On Tuesday, the US and UK officials expressed support for the Syrian opposition in the course of the Geneva talks.

Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) leaves a press conference on the eve of a new round of peace talks in Geneva on November 27, 2017. (AFP photo)

Alastair Burt, the British minister of state for the Middle East, said after meeting Nasr Hariri that Geneva talks need “to lead toward the inclusive political transition necessary to end this conflict.

The Syrian opposition chief also met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield who reaffirmed support for a credible political transition process under US supervision.

On the other side, Russia, Turkey and Iran have mediated a parallel peace process between Syria’s warring parties in Astana, Kazakhstan, since January.

Russia also plans to hold an all-Syrian congress, known as the Syrian National Dialog Congress, in the Russian resort city of Sochi that would involve drawing up a framework for Syria’s future structure, adopting a new constitution and holding elections under the UN supervision, Putin said at the time.