Syria crisis mediator says terrorist threat could help peace talks

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Syrian refugees move between shelters at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley city of Zahle as their flimsy shelter struggle to withstand the wind and snow. UNHCR/A.McConnell

A solution to the Syrian conflict must not be put on the "backburner", according to the UN envoy tasked with securing peace there.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters that 2015 must not be like 2014 "when nothing happened".

Mr de Mistura added that the presence of jihadist fighters in Syria only 20 kilometres from Aleppo was a new factor in the conflict which could help future peace talks.

"ISIS – Da’ish – is in Syria and is actually actively occupying and involved in at least one third of Syria. And together with al-Nusra, the other terrorist organization … is actively in the south and in the north. In other words, there is a new factor that is threatening the feeling of anyone in Syria to win a war at the moment. Anyone, including Bashar al Assad."

The UN envoy said that there was a need for opposition forces and those loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to stop fighting in Aleppo and establish a so-called "freeze zone" .

He explained that if both sides in the conflict continued to fight, the jihadis could take advantage of the situation and that would be a "major catastrophe".

At a news conference in Geneva the UN negotiator spoke of the recent Paris terrorist attacks which he said had "a connection with the origins and consequences of the Syrian conflict".

In reference to the upcoming peace talks in Moscow on 27 January, Mr de Mistura said he welcomed any effort to secure peace in the country whether it was UN-led or not.

Some 12 million people were in need, he said, with 7.6 million displaced, 3.3 million refugees and 220,000 killed.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’46″


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