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Geneva negotiations UN envoy issues warning as Syria peace talks flounder

The UN's special envoy to the Syria peace talks in Geneva has told Swiss public television, RTS, that if this round of negotiations fails, all hope will be lost for Syria. (RTS/swissinfo.chexternal link

As cracks began to emerge in the talks that started on Monday, Staffan de Mistura warned that this was the last chance to bring about an end to a conflict that has left 260,000 people dead and forced more than half of Syria's population to flee their homes.

The opposition cancelled a meeting with de Mistura on Tuesday, accusing Russia of putting the process at risk with an "unprecedented" bombing campaign on Aleppo and Homs. It said it would tentatively resume meetings with the UN special envoy on Wednesday. Riad Hijab, the opposition’s chief coordinator, was expected to arrive in Geneva.

Immediate efforts must be made to begin ceasefire negotiations, said de Mistura, expressing fears that Russia was getting embroiled in an Afghanistan-type conflict.

But opposition delegate Nazir Hakim said a general ceasefire in the current climate was "unrealistic", according to Reuters.

The opposition has demanded that the Syrian regime allow humanitarian access to besieged towns, stops bombing civilians and release thousands of prisoners – some of them children – who are languishing in regime jails.