The Latest: UN envoy cautions against soft Syria partition

The Latest on Syria (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

The U.N.'s Syria envoy says a plan crafted by world powers to establish safe zones in the war-battered country should only be seen as an "interim" arrangement and not a precursor to partition.

Staffan de Mistura said Thursday that the proposal agreed upon by Russia, Iran and Turkey last week could lead to increased access by aid groups. But he said the safe zones should not be used as launch pads for new military operations.

De Mistura spoke ahead of a planned resumption of U.N.-mediated talks between the Syrian government and opposition next week in Geneva.


1 p.m.

Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are carrying out mine-clearing operations at the country's largest dam and the nearby town of Tabqa a day after seizing them from Islamic State militants.

The media office of the Syrian Democratic Forces said Thursday a special operation was underway to de-mine the dam and the surrounding area.

Concerns were raised earlier this year that the dam could be damaged in the fighting or degraded by lack of maintenance, or that the extremists might sabotage it to flood the surrounding areas.

The capture of Tabqa seven weeks after the launch of the SDF offensive, with help from the U.S.-led coalition, sets the stage for an advance on Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the extremists' self-styled caliphate, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.