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Syrian Peace Talks Implode As Key Rebel Stronghold Is Poised To Fall

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Government forces near the Syrian city of Aleppo cut off a key rebel supply line Wednesday, effectively halting any rebel progress in the city and essentially putting an end to any substantive peace talks.

The talks are taking a “temporary pause” after just two days with a promise to restart by Feb. 25. The pause comes just one day after officials from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a Syrian opposition group, denounced a “massive acceleration of Russian and regime military aggression on Aleppo and Homs.”

Homs and Aleppo are two major Syrian cities that have been epicenters in for factions fighting in the now 5-year-old civil war.

“There is nothing to negotiate. Just go home,” said HNC member Basma Kodmani to BBC in response to the news, referring to the Syrian government’s push as a “horrible development.”

A U.N. spokesperson confirmed the opposition’s claims Wednesday, saying to Reuters: “the U.N. has received reports of displacement of hundreds of households in north-east towns of Bayanoun, Hariyatan, Anadan, Hayan and Rityan of Syria following an unprecedented frequency of air strikes in the past two days.”

Despite the increase in air strikes from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces and their Russian allies, the U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan di Mistura, is holding out hope that the process will begin again in earnest.

“This is not the end, and it is not the failure of the talks,” said de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy assigned to the Syrian conflict, to reporters after announcing the suspension. He noted both sides are “interested in having the political process started.”

Despite di Mistura’s optimism, the process to begin the negotiations alone was remarkably difficult. Upon arrival at the talks, HNC member Farah Atassi said that the delegation was not coming to negotiate with Assad, but instead to speak with U.N. officials. Opposition and pro-Assad forces did not meet face-to-face during the short-lived negotiations, instead, the U.N. acted as an intermediary between the two groups.

The complexity of the situation in Syria has increased as the years have worn on. What started as a civil uprising against president Bashar al-Assad quickly led to all-out conflict between opposition and pro-government forces. Several terrorist elements eventually joined the fray, most notably ISIS and al-Qaida affiliate Nusra front.

Al-Assad has had backing from his Russian and Iranian allies throughout the conflict, with Russia engaging in direct military action beginning last year.

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