First Published: 2017-08-17

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end
After seven failed attempts at holding face-to-face talks, De Mistura expects fresh talks in October or November, perhaps in Riyadh.
Middle East Online

Veteran diplomat outlined a new timetable for talks to end the six-year war

GENEVA - The United Nations hopes for a "serious negotiation" between the government and a still-to-be-formed unified Syrian opposition in October or November, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday.

After seven previous rounds that have failed to persuade the adversaries to hold face-to-face talks, let alone make progress, the veteran diplomat outlined a new timetable for talks to end the six-year war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.

He said he expected a meeting in October, possibly in Riyadh, among the three opposition delegations "to take stock of the realities on the ground", with a view to consolidation.

Before that, he planned a brief UN round of diplomacy with the oppositions and government around mid-September in Geneva.

"We may be eventually focusing basically on the agenda for the real substantive talks that we hope will take place in October," he told reporters.

"Regarding the (Syrian) government, we are counting very much on Russia, on Iran, on anyone who has got major influence, and on the government of Syria to be ready finally to initiate when they are invited to Geneva, a genuine, direct negotiation with whatever (opposition) platform comes out." The main opposition is the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) but there are two other dissident groupings, the "Moscow" and "Cairo" platforms. The two, much less opposed to President Bashar al-Assad than the HNC, each comprise some activists but do not control territory or have strong links with armed groups.

De Mistura also said that a letter from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in early August had paved the way for Russian military police to be staged along the route of a UN-Red Cross convoy which reached the besieged rebel-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta near Damascus, on Thursday.

The successful convoy, the first since May, consisted of 50 trucks carrying relief items for 35,000 people. "We are seeing just today one of those examples, and I am expecting and hoping that this will become a pattern," De Mistura said.

Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian adviser, said that the convoy to Douma, one of 11 besieged areas, was "hugely symbolic".

"It took a lot of effort, a lot of negotiations and a lot of help from Russia and others to make it happen," he said.

Assad is extending his military advantage, helped by the capture of swathes of territory from Islamic State with the help of his Russian and Iranian allies.

IS has also lost ground to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia. US-backed forces have Islamic State fighters surrounded in central Raqqa, a Syrian Kurdish commander said last week.

"The worst place probably today in Syria today is the part of Raqqa city that is still held by the so-called Islamic State," Egeland said.

"We reckon there to be 20,000 or 25,000 civilians there. They are encircled by the SDF fighters and they are used seemingly as humanitarian shields by the Islamic State." "We're therefore urging the coalition, the SDF whom we can deal with, to allow, as much as they can, people to escape and come out and to avoid civilian casualties, of which there have been many," Egeland said.

 

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Egypt presidential race starts with Sisi likely to win

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

Turkey says US embassy Jerusalem opening in May 'extremely worrying'

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus

PKK attack near Iraq kills 2 Turkish soldiers