Today the U.N. Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, reiterated his concern for the quickly crumbling truce in Syria – which finds itself particularly threatened in the Aleppo region, with skirmishes taking place in both rural Aleppo and the city itself. The U.N. Special Envoy called upon Presidents Obama and Putin to maintain their support for the truce, and renew their commitment to it, citing their investment in the political process thus far: “There is no reason that both of them which have been putting so much political capital in that success story and have a common interest in not seeing Syria ending up in another cycle of war should not be able to revitalize what they have create and which is still alive but barely”.
Several minor violations of the truce have been claimed by both the government and the rebels since its inception two months ago. A key factor in the instability of the truce has been the exclusion of Al-Qaeda’s Al-Nusra Front franchise, which operates throughout rebel held territory and works closely with a number of rebel groups. Whilst both the US and Russia are agreed on the exclusion of Al-Nusra from the ceasefire, there is a lack of consensus with regards to which targets may be deemed as Al-Nusra, and therefore legitimate.
This central tension came to the fore earlier this month, when Al-Nusra and a number of affiliated rebel groups captured the strategic town of Al-Eis south of Aleppo city. The involvement of rebel groups in this offensive represented the first capture of territory in violation of the truce, and forced a reorientation of the Syrian Army forces towards this front, and away from ISIS held territory in Eastern Syria, just weeks after the liberation of Palmyra.
The representative of Syria to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, described Tuesday’s negotiations as “useful and constructive”, with de Mistura also highlighting a number of commonalities between the visions of the government and opposition for future governance. Nevertheless, the recent escalation in Aleppo prompted the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to pull out of peace talks last week, and despite the modest headway de Mistura acknowledged today, he also questiond the efficacy of talks in the midst of such heightened violence: “How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?”.