The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said Thursday a cessation of hostilities in place in Syria since Dec. 30 last year is “largely holding.”

“The main area of concern is Wadi Barada and the water issue which is affecting five million people in Damascus,” Staffan de Mistura told press after a weekly humanitarian briefing here.

“The information we have is that five villages in the area have reached an arrangement with the government… but two villages, in particular one that is holding the actual source of water, have not yet reached an agreement,” he added.

This means that there is a substantial and imminent danger that a military escalation could ensue, the diplomat explained.

This could have a negative impact on planned Russian and Turkish-brokered negotiations expected to kick off on Jan. 23 in Astana, since these are based on the establishment of a cessation of hostilities between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition factions seeking to oust him.

“There is a sense of urgency linked to both water and to Astana, and we are definitely in that direction too,” de Mistura highlighted.

The diplomat also warned that access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas must be improved as quickly as possible, with the need for aid particularly pressing in four Syrian locations.

“We have seen pictures both in Kefraya and Foua and Zabadani and Moadamiya which give a feeling that the issue of food and essential items is a serious one,” he said.

De Mistura hopes to reconvene rival delegations back to the negotiating table on Feb. 8 in Geneva.

Syria peace talks seeking to broker a political end to the five-year conflict which has killed some 400,000 people and displaced millions more have been on hold since April last year. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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