UN Syria envoy “deeply concerned” by escalation in fighting

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Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria briefs the press in Geneva. 24 March 2017. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

The UN Special Envoy for Syria said on Saturday he was “deeply concerned” at the recent escalation in fighting in Damascus and elsewhere around the country.

Intra-Syrian talks are under way in Geneva amid what Staffan de Mistura called "difficult" conditions created by the intensifying fighting of recent days.

The Syria conflict is now in its seventh year and has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives; it has also forced millions from their homes.

Mr de Mistura has written to the three guarantor-States of the ceasefire that came into effect last December – Iran, Russia and Turkey – appealing for them to make “urgent efforts” to renew it.

Daniel Johnson has more on what’s at stake in this latest round of negotiations.

The aim of this latest round of UN-led Intra-Syrian talks is to build on the agenda agreed at the last round of talks held in February between Staffan de Mistura, the government of Syria and the opposition. 

The issues on the table are free and fair elections, a new constitution, political transition and the fight against terrorism – this last item added at the request of the Syrian government. 

But the talks in Geneva are taking place against a backdrop of renewed fighting across the country, including in the capital Damascus and Hama province. 

This makes it all the more important that the failed ceasefire put in place by Russia, Turkey and Iran is resurrected, the UN negotiator said, hopefully with a new meeting between warring parties and regional powers in Astana, Kazakhstan: 

"This is not what we want but this is what can be faced by continuing having the talks in spite of the fighting. Hence our expectation and strong suggestion to the guarantors of the Astana process that they do retake the situation in hand and hopefully there will be a new Astana meeting as soon as possible in order to control the situation which at the moment is worrisome." 

Speaking to journalists, Staffan de Mistura said he had spoken about security issues with the official Syrian delegation and governance with the opposition.

But he insisted that all agenda items had to be addressed by the parties to the talks which are due to end in a week's time. 

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva. 

Duration: 1’32″

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