[HANOVER] US President Barack Obama made a plea Sunday for warring parties in Syria to return to peace talks and "reinstate" a ceasefire, as he defended a refusal to establish a safe zone in the country.
"I spoke to (Russian) President Vladimir Putin early last week to try to make sure that we could reinstate the cessation of hostilities," he told a news conference in Germany.
That was the clearest indication yet that the White House believes an increasingly troubled ceasefire has disintegrated as regime and rebel bombardments claimed 26 lives Sunday.
The White House has argued that the ceasefire, while imperfect, is worth pursuing and is the only way out of the brutal five-year conflict.
But its stance is bringing Washington and its allies into ever more conflict with rebel groups on the ground, which continue to be on the receiving end of regime attacks.
Pressure on Mr Obama is increasing in the United States, which in is the throes of a fiercely fought presidential election race, and from European allies who want to stop vast flows of refuges.
Many of Mr Obama's critics have called for a safe zone to be established, something that could bring Western militaries into direct conflict with Russian and Syria forces already in the area.
Mr Obama insisted that establishing a safe zone "is not a matter of an ideological objection on my part".
"As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us essentially being willing to militarily take over a big chunk of that country."
Mr Obama has come under criticism for his handling of Syria's war, with opponents saying he could have done more to stem the bloodshed.
But the US president - who came to power vowing to withdraw US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan - has stood fast in his opposition to plunging the United States into another ground war in the Muslim world.