Residents and activists in Damascus’ Jobar neighborhood hold a giant pre-Baath Syrian flag, now used by the Syrian opposition, during an anti-regime protest. AFP / AMER ALMOHIBANY
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A U.S.-Russia-brokered truce in Syria, now in its sixth day, is largely holding despite sporadic clashes in some areas, a U.N. envoy said Thursday, raising expectations ahead of next week's planned resumption of Geneva peace talks. Staffan de Mistura spoke as he convened a group monitoring the truce amid hopes of a breakthrough that could pave the way for regular humanitarian aid deliveries to remote and besieged areas that have been cut off by the fighting. The cease-fire has become the most promising initiative in years to help end a five-year war that has killed at least 250,000 people, driven millions of Syrians to flee the country, and given an opening to militants such as the extremist Daesh (ISIS) and Nusra Front, as Syria's Al-Qaeda branch is known, to seize large swaths of land.In London, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the leaders of Russia, Germany, Britain and France were planning to speak – also Friday – about ways to shore up the Syria cease-fire. Cameron's spokeswoman, Helen Bower, said Western leaders would stress to Russian President Vladimir Putin the importance of maintaining the truce so that peace talks can make progress in Geneva next week. The activist group said 49 of the civilians were killed in areas controlled by Daesh.Russia has denied targeting civilians in its Syria campaign.
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