WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA)         –  Though U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced the formal start of peace talks in Geneva on Monday, delegates from the Assad regime and opposition say meetings have not begun and could be nearing collapse. Opposition groups canceled a meeting with de Mistura yesterday afternoon to protest what they are calling an “unprecedented” escalation of the Russian air campaign in Aleppo and Homs. De Mistura is also reportedly pushing for the implementation of ceasefires, but opposition groups are not receptive to the proposal and note the lack of goodwill measures taken by the Assad regime. Riad Hijab, the head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, is expected to arrive in Geneva today and delegates are optimistic that he can be a unifying force for the opposition.

Speaking at a press conference in Oman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed criticism of the Russian air campaign in Syria. “Russian strikes will not cease until we really defeat terrorist organizations like the [Al-Nusra Front],” he said. Lavrov also said the Syrian opposition should not expect that “preconditions, which are set in the forms of ultimatums, can resolve problems.” The Assad regime allowed some humanitarian access to the rebel-held al-Tal neighborhood of Damascus on Tuesday, though the opposition has asked for humanitarian access to 18 threatened areas. More on :