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Syria to join UN groups in bid to establish peace talks

Syria's foreign minister says his country will participate in UN-led working groups toward a third round of Geneva talks on the fate of the country.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem addressed a UN gathering of world leaders as the international community scrambled to respond to Russia's new airstrikes in his country.

Mr Al-Moallem stressed that the working groups proposed by the UN's special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, are non-binding.

The foreign minister described them as "brainstorming" sessions meant to prepare for the launch of new talks sometime in the future.

But he added: "How can we ask the Syrian people to head to the ballot box while they are not safe in the streets?"

Mr Al-Moallem added that airstrikes alone will not be successful against the Islamic State group unless they are coordinated with the Syrian government.

He said Russia's decision to start bombing targets was based on the request of the Syrian government and is effective because it supports Syria's efforts to combat terrorism.

He pledged to continue the war against "terror" while also committing to a political track to end Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year.

The United States, which opposes Syrian President Bashar Assad, has questioned Moscow's assertion that it is targeting Islamic terrorists in Syria, saying the areas hit close to Homs are strongholds of the moderate opposition to Assad.

Allies in the US-led coalition have called on Russia to cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and to focus on fighting Islamic State militants.


From Belfast Telegraph