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Obama warns ‘fraying’ Syria ceasefire at risk of collapsing

US President Barack Obama has warned that a fragile ceasefire in Syria is in grave danger of collapsing amid a recent surge in violence.

“I am deeply concerned about the cessation of hostilities fraying and whether it’s (ceasefire) sustainable,” Obama said Friday at a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.

A landmark partial ceasefire, which was negotiated by the United States and Russia, took effect in Syria on February 27. The truce had raised hopes that a lasting agreement could be worked out in negotiations in Geneva to resolve the five-year conflict.

United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura also expressed his concerns about the situation in Syria, telling reporters in Geneva that the truce was “still in effect, but it is in great trouble if we don’t act quickly.”

The UN envoy added that he would continue the new round of talks, which began on April 13, through Wednesday.

The Saudi-backed opposition in Syria has pushed the ongoing peace talks to near collapse by demanding that any peace deal must include the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.

The government says the fate of President Assad is “a red line” and only the Syrian people can decide about it.

Top negotiators of opposition group High Negotiations Committee (HNC) quit the peace talks with the government this week.

De Mistura, however, said on Friday that his team had continued to hold “productive” meetings at a technical level with remaining HNC members at their Geneva hotel.

De Mistura leaves a press briefing following a meeting with members of the Syrian opposition at the UN Office on April 22, 2016 in Geneva. (AFP photo)

Obama said that he would try to keep the ceasefire in effect.

“We cannot end the crisis in Syria without political negotiations and without getting all the parties around the table to craft a transition plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, US officials said the Obama administration has prepared plans to supply more-powerful weapons to militants fighting the Syrian government if the ceasefire fell apart.

US officials said the so-called Plan B is aimed at providing vetted “moderate” militant units with weapons system that would enable them to launch attacks against Syrian government aircraft and artillery positions, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week.

The preparations for the “Plan B” were discussed at a secret gathering of intelligence chiefs in the Middle East before the ceasefire went into effect and in exchanges between intelligence services.

Pentagon officials say the White House is looking to “greatly increase” the number of special forces deployed in Syria. The US military has also resumed training new units of militants operating in the country.


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