Syria Envoy appeals for ceasefire mechanism at Astana talks

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Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. UN Photo/Violaine Martin (file)

Talks aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict have begun in Khazakstan.

Representing the UN at the meeting is top negotiator Staffan de Mistura.

He welcomed the participation of the Syrian government and opposition forces, before warning that what is really needed is for all parties at the talks to agree on a mechanism to monitor the fragile ceasefire.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Speaking from the Kazakh capital Astana, Staffan de Mistura thanked Iran, Turkey and Russia for organizing talks aimed at finding a solution Syria's near six-year war.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Syrian government and opposition forces for taking part in the meeting and sitting in the same room as each other.

Syrian people are increasingly desperate for the violence to end, the Special Envoy continued.

And while the level of clashes have diminished significantly since a ceasefire was agreed at the end of December, they're not over by any means.

One key area of conflict is Wadi Barada, outside Damascus; fighting there has prevented millions of people in Damascus getting fresh running water for weeks now.

In a reference to previous ceasefire failures, Staffan de Mistura said that this time, it was crucial that all parties to the talks agree on a mechanism to oversee and implement a nationwide ceasefire.

But this was just the first step, the UN Special Envoy said.

And he insisted that it was his intention to convene what he called "genuine" intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, with "direct negotiations" between the government of the war-torn country and opposition delegations.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’09″ 

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