MESOP : GENEVA FINISHING – US “Very, Very Concerned About Increase in Violence”

12 4. 2016 – eaworldview – The US State Department has said that it is “very, very concerned” about fighting across northwest Syria, as UN envoy Staffan de Mistura hopes to reconvene political talks. “We are very, very concerned about the recent increase in violence and that includes actions that are in contravention of the cessation of hostilities,” spokesman Mark Toner said.Rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra are challenging pro-Assad forces — including Iranian units, Hezbollah, and foreign militias — on fronts in southern Aleppo, Latakia, and Hama Provinces. The southern Aleppo offensive, launched on April 1, has regained territory lost to a regime-Iranian-Hezbollah advance, enabled by Russian airstrikes, last autumn.

Pro-regime outlets said the Syrian military retook positions in Latakia that it lost over the weekend to rebels and Nusra.A February 27 cessation of hostilities, brokered by the US and Russia, reduced violence in much of Syria, although pro-Assad forces pursued military operations in five provinces.

Rebels said, at the outset of their southern Aleppo assault, that they were responding to continued attacks on the ground and from the air.

State Department spokesman Toner said on Monday, “We would say that the vast majority of violations have been on the part of the regime.”He said Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the weekend, wanted to ensure “every extra effort is made in order to sustain and solidify the cessation of hostilities” before political talks resume in Geneva.UN envoy de Mistura has set the resumption for April 13, although a regime delegation is not expected to arrive until the 15th. Meeting de Mistura in Damascus on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem again said that the regime will not accept any outcome in which President Assad steps aside.