Russia has asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to halt bombings during peace talks this week in Geneva, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has said, adding that a peace breakthrough seems unlikely.
"Russia announced to everyone that they have formally asked the Syrian government to silence their own skies during the talks," de Mistura told reporters on February 22 at a meeting of the UN-backed cease-fire task force, on the eve of new negotiations in Geneva aimed at ending the six-year conflict.
The talks will be the first UN-mediated negotiations on Syria in almost a year, during which time the military and geopolitical context has changed massively.
Assad's army, with military backing from Russia, has recaptured the rebel bastion of eastern Aleppo, and the rebels are in a significantly weaker position.
De Mistura indicated that only limited progress was likely, and "momentum" towards a deal was probably the most that could be hoped for when delegations for Assad and the opposition resume talks on February 23.
"Am I expecting a breakthrough? No, I am not expecting a breakthrough," de Mistura said, but added that he hoped this round could lead to further talks on a political solution.