Syria envoy welcomes "progress” at Astana ahead of new Geneva talks

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UN Syria negotiator Staffan de Mistura said that efforts are continuing to reduce fighting in the war-torn country ahead of a new round of Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. Photo: UN Photo

Talks in the Kazakh capital Astana aimed at ending the war in Syria made "small" but "important" steps towards an eventual resolution of the conflict, UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura has said.

He was speaking on Wednesday after discussions between the Syrian government and opposition forces, along with Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The aim of the latest meeting in Kazakhstan was to agree on so-called de-escalation zones in Syria, where more than six years of conflict have left hundreds of thousands dead and forced millions to flee.

Here's Daniel Johnson.

In Astana, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told journalists that there had been some "progress" in trying to stop the fighting in Syria, after three days of meetings.

Parties to the talks – which came ahead of fresh UN-led discussions in Geneva beginning next Monday – focused on setting up de-escalation zones inside Syria.

But Mr de Mistura explained how difficult it has proved in the past to convince warring groups to put down their guns, referring to comments made by the head of the Russian delegation, Alexander Lavrentiev:

"We have tried already three times you know with the ceasefire in Syria in the last period of the last three years, so we really want to give a chance to what is being done here and we believe that efforts have been producing progress. There has been progress during this last three days but we heard it from particularly Ambassador Lavrentiev, more time is needed and required."

After more than six years of fighting Mr de Mistura stressed that what was required was the "implementation" of these de-escalation zones, for the sake of the Syrian people.

But he maintained that these safe areas were only a temporary fix and that what's really needed is an internationally backed, Syrian-owned deal to end the conflict.

That is the aim of next week's fresh round of UN-led talks in Geneva, although Mr de Mistura stressed the need for patience.

Of all the conflicts he has worked on in his long career – there are 19 in all, journalists heard – the veteran negotiator said that the Syrian war was "by far the most complicated".

Nonetheless, two years ago the outlook was much more pessimistic than it is now, he added, since there is at least "a real engagement" by warring parties.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'44"


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