Russia urges Syria to halt military for UN peace talks duration

  Geneva: Russia has formally asked the Syrian government to temporarily halt military operations in areas of the country included in the ceasefire for the duration of the UN-backed peace negotiations, said the UN special envoy to Syria.Representatives from Syria's government and the armed opposition were due to meet at the UN's Geneva headquarters on Thursday to begin roundtable discussions mediated by UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, Efe news reported.De Mistura acknowledged that he does not foresee immediate solutions from the meeting, but rather that it represented the beginning of a series of diplomatic negotiations aimed at restoring peace in the Arab nation.He said opposition leaders were also asking rebel fighters on the ground to halt military procedures in order to avoid provocations while the peace talks were ongoing.

A fragile ceasefire put in place at the end of December 2016 involved President Bashar al-Assad's army and several large rebels groups.It excludes hardline Islamist factions such as the Islamic State terror organisation and the al-Qaida offshoot Nusra Front, which has changed its names several times and now flies the banner of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.The Geneva talks are to follow on from similar discussions in the Kazakh capital Astana that were conducted under the auspices of Russia, Iran and Turkey who all have a hand in the conflict.Most international interlocuters on the Syrian subject have urged a political solution to the war, advising that a military one would only prolong the suffering and fuel the extremist group who benefit from the tumult.The Syrian Civil War was now entering its sixth year, having already claimed 400,000 lives according to UN estimates.