"Several stars coinciding" as UN Syria envoy restarts talks in Geneva

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Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria briefs the five Permanent Members of the Security Council to the United Nations during the Intra-Syrian talks, Geneva. 10 July 2017. UN Photo / Violaine Martin

A deal to set up a ceasefire zone in Syria along with other political developments could help a fresh round of talks aimed at ending more than six years of conflict in the country, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Monday.

The veteran UN negotiator was speaking to journalists in Geneva after Russia, the US and Jordan gave their support to a so-called de-escalation area in the south-west of the country.

The development – which has been welcomed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres – comes amid ongoing fighting elsewhere in Syria which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.

Daniel Johnson has more.

At the start of a fresh round of Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura said that "several stars" were coinciding in favour of potential progress towards an end to the more than six-year war.

In particular, the veteran UN negotiator welcomed the new de-escalation zone in the south-west of the war-torn country, near the Jordan, Lebanon and Israeli borders.

It covers an area that had become a potential "flashpoint", Mr de Mistura said.

The deal was announced at the weekend following a meeting of the G20 leaders in the German city of Hamburg by the US, Russia and Jordan.

It comes after discussions in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Russia, Turkey and Iran that ended without agreement on additional ceasefire zones in Syria.

Here's Mr de Mistura talking to journalists in Geneva: "De-escalation is what people the Syrian people have been asking, begging everyone, for a long time, hence our own support for the Astana process which is mutually reinforcing the Geneva one, and what has been the three areas which are being identified as de-escalation areas and of course our support to the south-west agreement announced in Hamburg."

On the first day of the UN-led talks in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura met the government of Syria delegation and held a working lunch with all three opposition delegation leaders.

The meetings coincided with a statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres who also welcomed the establishment of the de-escalation zone in south-west Syria.

In a statement, Mr Guterres said that the move was a "significant step towards reducing violence and increasing humanitarian access across Syria".

The UN chief added that it was in line with the pursuit of the goal of a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire that had been endorsed by "multiple" Security Council resolutions.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’53″

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