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Syria ceasefire should be ‘revitalised’ before peace talks resume

UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (L) is seen seated prior a round of negotiations between the Syria's regime-tolerated opposition and the U.N., at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, on April 27, 2016. Russia has asked the United Nations to blacklist a major rebel group that is playing a key role in peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, its ambassador to the UN said. Mohammed Alloush, a leading figure in Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), is the chief negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee, the war-torn country's main opposition group, at UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / MARTIAL TREZZINI

UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (L) is seen seated prior a round of negotiations between the Syria’s regime-tolerated opposition and the U.N., at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, on April 27, 2016.<br />Russia has asked the United Nations to blacklist a major rebel group that is playing a key role in peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, its ambassador to the UN said. Mohammed Alloush, a leading figure in Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), is the chief negotiator for the High Negotiations Committee, the war-torn country’s main opposition group, at UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / MARTIAL TREZZINI

The UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said Thursday that he planned to hold another round of peace talks next month but called for a ceasefire to be “revitalised” before setting a date.

He made the comments after briefing the United Nations Security Council on progress at the talks, which he said had made gains despite escalating violence on the ground that continued to threaten a fragile truce.

He highlighted that all parties at the Geneva-based talks now recognised the need for a new transitional government in Syria that should be tasked with drafting a new constitution, even if huge divides remain on the nature of that government.

As the latest round of negotiations went on recess, de Mistura said he wanted to open a fresh set “during the course of May”, to build on momentum earned so far.

He added however that he was holding off on fixing a date in hopes that world powers would use their leverage to strengthen the ceasefire, which needed to be “urgently revitalised.”

“How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?” de Mistura said.

The UN envoy specifically cited the United States, which supports some rebel groups, and regime-ally Russia as countries that needed to intervene, calling on Washington and Moscow to organise a high-level Syria meeting before negotiations resume.

The talks are focused on creating a transitional government capable of leading Syria out of a brutal civil war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

De Mistura insisted progress had been made on that key issue.

“No one is doubting anymore that there is an urgent need for a true and credible political transition,” he told reporters.

“There is a clear understanding that a political transition should be overseen by a new, I repeat new, credible and inclusive transitional government, which will be replacing the present governance arrangement,” he further said.

But the UN mediator declined to discuss the most daunting obstacle at the talks, which is the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has insisted that Assad cannot be part of a transitional government and must agree to leave power as part of any peace deal.

Government negotiations have said Assad’s fate is not on the agenda at the negotiations.

The HNC, backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, officially withdrew from this round last week to protest escalating violence, but left technical experts in Geneva who continued to meet with UN mediators.



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