“No luxury” not to help Syria, says UN negotiator

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Staffan de Mistura (centre). UN Photo/Violaine Martin

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria who's leading consultations to end the conflict announced on Tuesday that the UN "will never abandon the Syrian people" even when the situation looks "mission impossible".

Staffan de Mistura said he was acting on clear instructions from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to "operationalise" a UN-led agreement known as the Geneva communiqué to find a political solution to the five-year-old conflict.

The UN negotiator described his mission to hold one-on-one meetings with regional and international players as a "reality check" and a "stress test" to see if future discussions might be viable.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Stressing the "low-key" but "serious" nature of the consultations, Staffan de Mistura said the meetings were the "necessary groundwork" that had to happen before there could be any talk of getting everyone around a negotiating table.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria said he was preparing to meet "over 40 Syrian groups" in addition to the government of Bashar Al-Assad, and about 20 regional and international actors over a five-week period.

He said he was "neither confident or not confident" about the outcome.

But it was nearly three years since the Geneva Communique was signed and it was time to find out whether changes on the ground had altered the dynamic – such as the rise of terrorist groups.

De Mistura said he shared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's belief that the UN had a responsibility to find a solution to the crisis.

He added that there was "no luxury not to try" to stop the fighting while Syrians were "reduced to statistics", in reference to the 120,000 people killed since the conflict began.

"I have, and the Secretary General has always felt that, the duty to try, and not just to give up. The Secretary-General said it, the UN will never abandon Syria, the Syrian people , even when as it looks and has been looking like, the situation looks terribly difficult or even mission impossible."

Those invited to meet the Special Envoy have not been named.

But de Mistura said he was following the advice of former UN Syria negotiators Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi by preparing to listen to the "maximum number of voices" on how to end the conflict.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'36"

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