US, Russia, Regional Players Begin Swiss Talks on Syria
By VOA News October 15, 2016
Talks began in the Swiss city of Lausanne Saturday in another attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict.
Talks are being held among U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Foreign ministers of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are also present at the talks.
Leading international charities called Saturday for a 72-hour cease-fire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo's eastern neighborhood, the target of government and Russian-backed airstrikes to allow the sick and wounded to be evacuated, and for food and medical aid to enter the besieged area.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in Aleppo, which has seemingly become ground zero in Syria's five-year war. Rebels control the east while the Syrian military holds the rest of the city.
War crime accusations
The U.S. and its Western allies accuse Russia and Syria of war crimes for bombing hospitals and U.N. relief convoys in and around Aleppo as they target Syrian rebels looking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria and Russia say they are only targeting militants. While targeting the opposition with bombs, Syrian and Russian forces have been hitting civilians, including many children.
Russia denies attacking civilians, saying its only targets are "terrorists," the word Russia and Syria use when talking about the opposition.
U.S. President Barack Obama met with his national security team Friday to discuss Syria.
The White House said in a statement that even though bilateral talks with Russia have been suspended, multi-lateral discussions with "key nations" are needed to "encourage all sides to support a more durable and sustainable diminution of violence."
Warplanes belonging to Russia and the Syrian government conducted a massive air raid on targets in rebel-held areas of Aleppo Thursday night into Friday morning, according to a monitor group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday morning that dozens of airstrikes hit eastern Aleppo, and while the airstrikes ended by mid-morning, skirmishes continued around the northern and southern edges of the city.
It is not clear how many people were killed as rescue teams continue to search for victims under the rubble of destroyed buildings.
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