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UN, EU Call For Return To Syria Peace Talks

The United Nations and the European Union have appealed for quick political talks to end the seven-year conflict in Syria, saying the latest territorial gains by Damascus and its allies hadn't brought peace any closer.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued the calls on April 24 in Brussels, where they held talks as part of efforts to restart the UN-sponsored Geneva peace talks.

The previous eight rounds of talks have made little progress.

Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key allies, last year launched a separate negotiations process together with Turkey in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

"Military gains, territorial gains, and military escalation do not bring a political solution, have not brought any change, on the contrary," de Mistura told a news conference.

"There is a job that the Astana three [guarantor] countries are supposed to do and they claim they want to do it, and that is de-escalation. We have seen recently the opposite: escalation. So it is right that we expect and ask them to do that job," he added.

Mogherini said that the Astana process "brought some hope on the possibility of calming down the situation in terms of military activities, but that seems very long ago and that seems gone.

The meeting between de Mistura and Mogherini came as a two-day international conference aimed at securing humanitarian support for victims of the Syrian war kicked off in the Belgian capital.

UN and EU officials held talks on April 24 with more than 200 aid groups and NGOs working in Syria and neighboring countries, and drawing up recommendations that will be discussed with high-level delegations on April 25.

The seventh such annual gathering is co-sponsored by the EU and the UN, and brings together donor countries, aid groups, and UN agencies.

EU officials hope to surpass the $6 billion pledged at last year's gathering.

The UN has warned that its own appeal for this year's humanitarian funding for Syria has so far garnered less than $800 million of the $3.5 billion needed.

The conference comes as Syrian government forces and their allies are pushing a military offensive to wipe out the last few rebel enclaves near the capital, Damascus.

It also follows air strikes by the United States, France, and Britain on Syrian military installations on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma.

According to EU estimates, some 6.1 million Syrians are now internally displaced, while more than 5 million have fled Syria.

It also estimates that 13 million people, including six million children, are in need of aid.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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