UN envoy to Syria urges regime to put forward plans

UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura urges Assad regime to put forward plans for political transition

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R), arrives to take part in a round of negotiations between the Syrian government and U.N., at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, March 18, 2016.

The UN's Syria envoy wrapped up a week of fragile peace talks on Friday with plans to meet both sides, after urging Syrian autocrat Bashar al Assad’s regime put forward clear plans for political transition.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations mediator at the Geneva negotiations, has said agreeing on a unity government to lead Syria out of five years of civil war was the most daunting roadblock to peace.

He praised the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) for offering "substantive" plans for a transition on Thursday.

"It was very substantive, papers on the political transition were actually distributed and they went very deeply into how they see the political transition being potentially implemented soon," he said.

But the HNC has made the departure of Assad an unalterable demand, while the regime has termed any talk of the his removal as "a red line."

De Mistura told reporters before his meeting with regime negotiators at 12:30pm (1130 GMT) that he hopes to get "similar in-depth clarity" from the regime about options for political transition.

He described previous talks with the regime this week as "more on the formal side," adding that what the regime sees as a possible political transition needs to be looked at.

Syrian chief negotiator Bashar al Jaafari (2nd L), Ambassador of the Permanent Representative Mission of Syria to UN New York, and UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (2nd R), attend a round of negotiations

'The grey zones'

Acknowledging the "large" distance between the two sides, de Mistura said his goal in the coming days was to look for glimpses of common ground between the HNC and the regime to identify what he described as "the grey zones."

HNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani told reporters that the opposition was weary of drawn out negotiations that ultimately lead nowhere.

"We are keen to move quickly," she told reporters in Geneva. "We are very keen to avoid a process that does not deliver."

"Mr. De Mistura reasserted that it was a six-month timeframe, hopefully less but no more. And that was a reassurance," she said.

Kodmani, asked about the regime’s engagement in the process, replied: "Someone at some point, and we hope soon, will need to say there is no partner out there."

The HNC wants to focus on a transitional governing body with full executive powers as outlined in a 2012 Geneva communique. The regime has indicated that a "national unity government" with opposition participation was the most on offer, an idea ruled out by the HNC.

If the talks make progress before pausing on March 24, a second round of negotiations is tentatively scheduled for next month.

Western governments have voiced hope that the negotiations could help the peace talks by weakening Assad's position and forcing the regime to commit to negotiations.

TRTWorld and agencies