Alternative to Syria truce is "another 10 Aleppos": Envoy

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UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has invited government and opposition delegations back to Geneva for a new round of Intra-Syrian talks. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Top UN negotiator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has expressed cautious optimism that a new ceasefire deal could help a fresh round of talks in Geneva.

Failure to take advantage of it for the benefit of war-weary Syrians could result in "another 10…Aleppos", the Special Envoy said – a reference to the suffering caused by fighting between government and opposition forces for control of the northern city in 2016.

The Special Envoy's comments come after Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to set up four so-called de-escalation zones inside Syria, which has been devastated by more than six years of war.

Daniel Johnson has more.

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura told journalists that there was "something different" about the ceasefire deal signed in Astana by Russia, Turkey and Iran – three countries with power and influence on the ground in Syria.

Some opposition delegations had walked out of the negotiations in the Kazakh capital because of it, he said, but "most of them" remained committed to the four safe zones.

A week after the deal was announced, the level of fighting and aerial attacks has decreased in the devastated country, and it's against this backdrop that a new round of UN-led Intra-Syrian talks are to begin in Geneva on the 16th.

But Mr de Mistura warned that further violence could easily derail the push for political transition:

"Spoilers will be there, spoilers are there…but that should be an element of at least giving it some hope… There is an alternative to that, and the alternative would be simply to do nothing and have another 10, God forbid, Aleppos."

It's unclear who will monitor the safe zones in parts of the country including Idlib and Homs, the eastern suburbs of Damascus and a zone in the south.

But Mr de Mistura said that the guarantors were discussing this, with the UN's support.

On the issue of detainees, the UN Special Envoy said that the details were "almost completely…finalised", but that it was premature to say when the first prisoners would be released.

With the Syria conflict well into its seventh year, the humanitarian suffering goes on.

Special Adviser to the UN Jan Egeland warned of a "shrinking humanitarian space" inside the country.

"Convoys are not getting through," and people are "on the brink of starvation," he told journalists.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’40″


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