New Delhi, Dec 19 (PTI) India and Syria will hold first direct talks on the implementation of a ceasefire on December 19, a senior Indian official said on Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting between India’s foreign secretary, Sushma Swaraj and Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, would be held in Delhi.
“It is our first direct meeting between the two governments, and we will hold the meeting with our top foreign officials,” the official said, speaking on condition that the official not be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
A ceasefire, brokered by the United Nations in December, collapsed in mid-January after nearly a month of fighting between rebels and government forces in Aleppo province, which is controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Since then, nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the conflict and thousands of people have fled their homes.
Swaraj said India was open to working with Syria on the issue of a safe zone for the displaced people, but only on condition it did not conflict with the territorial integrity of the country.
“We have to make sure that the people of Syria do not suffer, and it is very important that we do not do that,” she said.
The ceasefire was reached in late December and has been a key point in efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.
It was supposed to allow refugees fleeing Aleppo to return to their homes in other parts of the war-torn country.
But the truce collapsed amid the intense fighting and heavy shelling in the area.
Since then the United States and Russia have stepped up military operations in Syria, while China has backed the Syrian government in its war against the rebels.
India, which shares a border with Syria, has also deployed troops and is providing training to the Syrian army.