UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura offers tentative hope after Geneva talks between Syria's stakeholders: "No one left. Everybody stayed. They were focused. We got an agenda. We got a timeline."
The US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Wednesday that Syria could no longer be a "safe haven for terrorists" and that it was important "we get Iran and their proxies out".
Haley spoke to reporters in New York after a UN Security Council briefing by Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on the results of the last round of talks which took place last week in Geneva between the warring parties to end Syria's six-year conflict.
A crackdown by Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad on protesters in 2011 led to civil war and Daesh has 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. Most of the current focus of the international community has been to dislodge Daesh from the region.
"This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we've got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we've got to make sure that, as we move forward, we're securing the borders for our allies as well," Haley said.
She did not respond to questions on whether the US believed al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down. With US President Donald Trump keen to build ties with Russia and to punish Iran for its weapons development programme, it remains unclear how Washington will approach ending the six-year war in Syria.
"The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he's doing, we support the UN process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue," Haley said.
UN Security Council hears note of cautious optimism
Mistura delivered a cautiously optimistic report on Syria to the Security Council on Wednesday.
He addressed the 15-member body behind closed doors at the UN headquarters in New York. He updated the council on the outcome of the recent talks in Geneva aimed at bringing a political solution in Syria.
After the meeting, Mistura told waiting journalists:
"As I told the Security Council, we have completed after nine days, the fourth round of talks in Geneva. We did not expect miracles and frankly, we didn't have miracles, but we achieved much more than many people imagined we could have.
No one left. Everybody stayed. They were focused. We got an agenda. We got a timeline. We got some agreement of substance."
He said, "It is the first time that there was involvement by everyone in showing that they are serious in trying to actually achieve a dialogue among them. They would have never been seated together."
Mistura added, "Some of the commonalities are crucially important because Syrians are proud people and they love their country, national sovereignty, integrity, unity, certain major rules about what could be the end state. How to get there? There are disagreements," he said.
He also told reporters that he planned to convene another round of peace talks on March 23 in Geneva.