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Executive Summary for May 27th

We review the key developments in Syria, including photographs showing an elite U.S. unit aiding Kurdish fighters, the U.N. special envoy’s view on upcoming peace talks in Geneva and the opposition’s seizure of a town in rural Damascus.

Published on May 27, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Photos Reveal U.S. Special Forces Aiding Kurdish Fighters

Photographs surfaced of U.S. special operations forces aiding the main Syrian Kurdish militia, as they advanced toward the so-called Islamic State’s capital, Raqqa.

The images showed some U.S. army personnel wearing the insignia of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in an evident show of support, according to the Guardian in London.

They were taken on Thursday by an Agence France-Presse photographer, showing some elite U.S. special forces with Kurdish fighters from the U.S.-trained Syrian Democratic Forces outside Raqqa.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook would not comment on the photographs or the extent of American involvement with Syrian Kurds. However, he did confirm that U.S. special operations forces have worn insignias and identifying marks “with their partner forces.”

The photographs follow President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that he would increase the U.S. strength in Syria to 300, who would perform as advisers, according to the Pentagon.

Cook said the “advise-and-assist role has not changed,” and the elite forces conduct “meetings” with indigenous forces “that are taking the fight to ISIL,” using an alternative acronym for Islamic State.

“They are not on the forward line. They are providing advice and assistance,” he added.

No Syria Talks for Two, Three Weeks: U.N. Envoy

No new round of peace talks will take place for at least two or three weeks, according to a statement released on Thursday by the office of U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

The statement, which followed de Mistura’s consultation with the U.N. Security Council for about two and a half hours, said he wanted to see progress related to the ceasefire and humanitarian access before he could resume peace talks in Geneva, Reuters reported.

“He briefed on his intention to start the next round of talks as soon as feasible but certainly not within the next two/three weeks,” the statement said.

“Meanwhile, the special envoy will maintain close and continuous contact with the Syrian parties as well as the members of the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] before determining the ‘appropriate time’ to reconvene the parties to Geneva.”

The ISSG consists of powerful regional and international states, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the U.S., which are expected to bring warring parties in the country to respect statements and resolutions made by the Security Council.

A U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire implemented in February has been faltering for weeks, as a result of continuous clashes between the government and opposition forces.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told reporters in New York after de Mistura’s briefing that the U.N. mediator was growing impatient at the slow progress made during the last round of talks and the deteriorating situation on the ground.

“He expressed his continued frustration with insufficient humanitarian access, the serious dangers to the cessation of hostilities, and the need for real progress on the political talks,” she said.

Power said the Syrian government’s and its allies’ attacks on civilians were the main threat to the cessation of hostilities.

“Russia has a special responsibility to press the Assad regime to abide by the cessation of the hostilities and end its bombardment and siege of innocent civilians,” she said.

Opposition Advances in Rural Damascus

Armed opposition forces fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced they had gained control over the town of Deir Khaiba on Thursday following clashes with regime forces.

Opposition sources told Al-Jazeera that intense clashes led to the seizure of the town in the western part of rural Damascus and the imprisonment of an unidentified number of Syrian security forces, including an officer.

The opposition described the fighting as a “precautionary battle” to prevent the Syrian regime, which has sent reinforcements into the area, from besieging the towns of Khan and Zakia.

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