Syria Strikes Kill 400 So Far This Month in Aleppo

GENEVA (AP) -

The United States and Russia promised to try to break the stalemate in Syria peace talks, a U.N. mediator said Thursday, as Syrian activists said government shelling and airstrikes with makeshift barrel bombs killed about 400 people in the country’s largest city so far this month.

A second round of peace talks in Geneva has offered a rare opportunity for conversation, but yielded little more than acrimony. The violence has escalated on the ground and delegates in Geneva have failed to even agree on an agenda for the talks.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said after meeting with senior U.S. and Russian officials that they pledged to try help.

“They have kindly reaffirmed their support to what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us,  because until now we are not making much progress,” he told reporters.

He met with  Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov to try to salvage the talks.

“Failure is always staring at us in the face. As far as the U.N. is concerned, we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward,” he said.

The bombings in Aleppo are part of a campaign by President Bashar Assad’s forces to wrest control of neighborhoods that were seized by rebels in the northern city since mid-2012.

They come as a cease-fire in the central city of Homs has been extended for three days as of Thursday in order to allow more people to leave besieged rebel-held parts of the city, the Homs governor said.

Gov. Talal Barrazi said that as long as there are people who want to leave rebel-held areas in Homs, the truce will be extended.

Hundreds of civilians have been evacuated from Homs since Friday when a rare cease-fire went into effect.