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Latest update : 2016-03-04

UN envoy insists Syria peace talks have momentum

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday told FRANCE 24 he “hoped to take advantage” of the newfound momentum in the Syrian peace talks amid a shaky week-long ceasefire in the war-torn country.

De Mistura said recent developments made him hopeful about finally negotiating a political solution to the brutal five-year conflict in Syria.

“I do see several developments” he said during an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, highlighting the growing consensus on the United Nations Security Council.

De Mistura said that the avalanche of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe, Russia’s growing military presence in the country, and continued attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group around the world, had served as “a wake-up call” for the international community, spurring more robust diplomatic efforts.

“There is the momentum I am hoping to take advantage of,” explained De Mistura.
In particular, he said that Russian military intervention had triggered support for negotiations.

“Russia is now involved militarily, and as was the case with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq they are finding that it is easy to get in, but not so easy to get out, without a political solution” the UN mediator said.

De Mistura spoke to FRANCE 24 only hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Western leaders during a conference call Friday that the Syrian regime’s decision to hold legislative polls in April does not contradict the peace process.

The leaders – who have rarely seen eye-to-eye over the Syria civil war –also “expressed their readiness” to boost cooperation to address humanitarian problems, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.

‘New atmosphere’

De Mistura said that the week-long ceasefire appeared to be holding, but acknowledged that there had been some tragic exceptions and that more were likely in the future.

He said the Syrian conflict was the “most complicated” he had seen in the 45 years he had worked at the United Nations, and that the IS group and the Islamist al-Nusra Front, would endeavour to derail the ceasefire.

“But we do have the United States and Russia, and all the groups that are behind each of them, working together to contain any incidence, so that they don’t unravel the ceasefire”.

De Mistura plans to resume talks with the Syrian government and opposition parties on March 9 after delaying the talks set for January.

He said that the atmosphere at the start of the year – referring to the increased military activity and lack of humanitarian aid - had “not been conducive to talks”.

The UN envoy said that while these two issues were far from being resolved, they were being addressed.

De Mistura pointed out that no humanitarian aid got through in 2015, but that up to 115,000 people finally received aid in recent days. Planned air drops should soon help an additional 200,000 people, he added.

By FRANCE 24

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