Staffan de Mistura.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Utenriksdepartementet UD, used under CC BY-ND

The ceasefire in Syria has greatly reduced the level of fighting and has made aid shipments possible, UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said Thursday, expressing hope that this improves the prospects for next week's new peace talks.

Although the conflict had continued in parts of the Hama, Homs, Latakia and Damascus governorates since the start of the ceasefire on Saturday, it had been possible to contain the fighting, the UN envoy said.

"The situation therefore could be summarized as fragile. Success is not guaranteed, but progress has been visible," de Mistura told reporters in Geneva, where the Syrian government and opposition are set to resume the peace consultations on Wednesday.

A total of 24 civilians have been killed in the Syrian areas covered by the partial ceasefire since its onset, a monitoring group said, marking a decline in violence-related deaths there.

"Previously, 38 civilians were killed on average per day in these areas," Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.

The US-Russia-brokered truce excludes areas under the control of the extremist militia organization Islamic State and al-Qaeda's Syria branch, al-Nusra Front.

"We believe that the cessation of hostilities will lead to the big leap forward in reaching at a minimum hundreds of thousands of people in hard to reach areas and in the remaining besieged areas," said Jan Egeland, a senior advisor to de Mistura.

While humanitarian organizations could not send a single truck to trapped Syrians in the first three months of last year, 236 trucks had delivered aid to 115,000 people in the last three weeks, Egeland said in Geneva.

The aid effort and the cessation of hostilities are the product of a recent agreement between global and regional powers that are varyingly allied with the Syrian government and armed opposition.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault scheduled a Friday meeting with his British and German counterparts to discuss the situation in Syria, the French Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

France and Britain have been key allies to the United States as part of its international military coalition against Islamic State, with Germany supplying reconnaissance support to the alliance.

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