Staffan de Mistura
Staffan de MisturaReuters

Syria peace talks will continue next week despite the opposition’s decision to quit them, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura said Thursday, according to Reuters.

De Mistura, speaking to the French-language Radio Television Suisse (RTS), said 400,000 people had been killed in the five-year-old war, far higher than the previous UN toll which has varied from 250,000 to 300,000.

Responding to the opposition’s decision to quit the talks, de Mistura referred to it as “diplomatic posturing.”

“That is to say, propose things that are more difficult to accept leave and come back, leave again and come back," de Mistura said. "It's also fairly justified, because there are moments when one asks whether the ceasefire is holding."

Asked whether the talks would continue, he said, according to Reuters, "We cannot let this drop. We have to renew the ceasefire, we have to accelerate humanitarian aid and we are going to ask the countries which are the co-sponsors to meet."

The latest round of talks, which began on April 13, was meant to focus on the issue of political transition in Syria, but the Damascus delegation has called for a national unity government, an idea which the opposition rejects, demanding President Bashar Al-Assad leave power.

Also on Thursday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said his government will continue with UN-mediated peace negotiations in Geneva until they "reach a solution", despite the opposition’s walk-out.

He was speaking in the Czech capital Prague during the first visit by a high-ranking Syrian official to an EU member since the beginning of the five-year conflict.

"I assure you once again that we shall respect the cessation of hostilities requested by the United Nations," Mekdad told reporters after talks with Czech counterpart Martin Tlapa and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, according to the AFP news agency.

"We shall send the humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria wherever they need it, and we shall continue with the discussions in Geneva until we reach a solution," added Mekdad.

The Czech Republic is the only EU member to have kept open its embassy in Syria, where it now also represents the interests of other EU countries as well as the United States.