UN envoy says Syria peace talks should restart

Staffan de Mistura also plans to hold meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Smoke rises near the Old City of Aleppo as seen from a regime controlled area of the city, Syria December 8, 2016.

The UN envoy for Syria said on Thursday that political talks to end the nearly six-year war should resume soon.

After attended a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Staffan de Mistura said that "now is the time to actually look seriously at the possible renewal of political discussions."

The envoy raised the possibility of a return to the negotiating table as Russia announced that the Syrian regime forces were halting military operations in order to evacuate civilians from Aleppo.

"We didn't get any information from the Russian announcement on how long it will be," de Mistura said of the halt in military operations.

Backed by Russia, the Syrian regime has captured about 85 percent of eastern Aleppo after three weeks of heavy fighting to seize one of the last opposition strongholds.

"Military victories are not a victory for peace, because peace needs to be won separately," De Mistura said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he hoped talks could resume before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves office on December 31.

"Time is short. It would be important to revive the talks before Mr. Ban's term expires, in just 20 days," Churkin told reporters.

The last round of UN-brokered peace talks ended in April, with no progress on the key issue of Syria's future government and the fate of  regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian residents fleeing the violence gather at a checkpoint, manned by pro-regime forces, in the Maysaloun neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo on December 8, 2016. (AFP)

De Mistura said talks would be possible if the regime in Damascus were ready to "discuss substantially" the terms of a settlement and if the opposition did not "refuse to come."

Without an effort to restart peace talks, there will be an "impression which no one wants to have that there is only a military victory, only a military solution. There is neither," he added. 

De Mistura also said he is planning to hold meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump's transition team. He said that talks would be held in New York and in Washington next week. 

Declining to give details on the issues he plans to raise, he said he has "some ideas" about how the new US administration "would be able to help fight terrorism in a very effective way."

A crackdown by Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 sparked a civil war and Daesh used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.

Moscow launched an air war in support of Assad's forces last year, while Washington has supported rebel forces battling the regime.


TRTWorld and agencies