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UN Syria envoy opens wide talks in Geneva


United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

United Nations- image source climateactionprogramme

The UN’s peace envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Tuesday announced the start of wide-ranging consultations in Geneva with regional and domestic players in the hope of reviving stalled dialogue on the conflict.

De Mistura said talks with the Syrian government and some 40 groups, including “political, military actors, women, civil society, victims, the diaspora”, would also rope in some 20 regional and international players, including Iran.

The consultations would be held on a one-to-one basis between the UN and the separate players.

He said though “low-key”, the talks would be “very serious” and could extend beyond a tentative end-June deadline.

“There is no cut-off date,” the Swedish-Italian diplomat said, adding: “By the end of June we will assess progress… and decide on the next steps.”

Terror-listed entities like the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra have not been invited but groups in contact with them are on the list of participants.

“We will try to listen to the maximum voices,” he said.

“They also include broad representation of the civil society as this process has to speak to the voices of the Syrian people who often are not heard enough.

“This process will be expanded to others as we move along. We want in the bottom line to get as broad a spectrum of views as possible,” he said.

“The UN will never abandon Syria even if it looks like Mission Impossible,” de Mistura said, voicing his “determination” to help find a solution to end the crisis.

Calling the Syrian conflict the “biggest humanitarian tragedy since the Second World War,” de Mistura said he would “leave no stone unturned” in his bid to try and end the fighting.

The launch of the dialogue comes as rights group Amnesty International accused government forces of crimes against humanity by indiscriminately bombing the country’s former economic powerhouse Aleppo. It also criticised rebels for abuses including war crimes.

De Mistura said the dialogue would be a “stress test as you do with banks” to try and answer the question “What is the situation today?”

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

De Mistura, who was appointed UN envoy for Syria last July, warned the Security Council last week that prospects for a political transition were slim.

In January, he said conditions were not yet right to try to launch more talks after two rounds of negotiations in Switzerland failed.

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