UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said the delay will give both sides more time to prepare. Separately, activists blame the US-led coalition for an air strike that hit the Red Crescent in Idlib on Wednesday.

Staffan de Mistura speaking to the press after the UNSC discussed Syria on January 31, 2017.
Staffan de Mistura speaking to the press after the UNSC discussed Syria on January 31, 2017.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Tuesday confirmed that the next round of peace talks between the regime and Syrian opposition has been delayed to February 20.

The decision came as the UN Security Council discussed Syria and the ceasefire that Turkey and Russia brokered at the end of December.

De Mistura told the meeting that the ceasefire was holding.

Following the latest round of Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, stakeholders had agreed to a new round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva on February 8.

De Mistura said the delay will give the Syrian opposition and regime more time to better prepare for the Geneva round.

"We want to give a chance to this Astana initiative to actually implement itself," de Mistura told reporters outside the Security Council.

De Mistura said consolidating the ceasefire was key to fulfilling the UN mandate on Syria, the priority of which was to fight the terrorist groups al Nusra and Daesh.

TRT World's Nick Harper in New York has more.

Humanitarian assistance inside Syria

De Mistura also said "there is no reason that one cannot accelerate humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria."

The World Food Program last week said it had resumed food air drops to besieged Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria after Daesh recently renewed its assault on the city.

The UN says it believes some 93,000 civilians are trapped inside the besieged city.

Air strike hits Red Crescent headquarters in Idlib

Activists and civil defence workers on Wednesday said an air strike hit the Red Crescent headquarters in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib overnight.

They said at least nine workers were injured when the Carlton Hotel was hit around 3am local time. The Red Crescent has run its operation out of the hotel for the past two years.

The strike damaged the building, equipment and vehicles.

The province of Idlib is held by the rebels. Witnesses said they believe the aircraft was from the US-led coalition.

Tripartite mechanism comes into effect

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a "tripartite mechanism" established by Russia, Turkey and Iran to monitor the ceasefire in Syria has come into force.

"The ceasefire is largely holding," Lavrov told the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, which convened in UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

"Russia, Turkey and Iran have established a mechanism that allows them to monitor implementation of the truce," Lavrov was quoted as saying in Abu Dhabi by Russia's TASS news agency.

"In line with our position, all armed opposition groups [in Syria] were invited to participate in the ceasefire and political talks," he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies