UN Syria talks ended on Friday without breakthrough

Orient Net - Reuters 2017-03-04 04:30:00

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Syria’s first UN led peace talks in almost a year ended on Friday (March 3) without breakthrough but the United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said the warring parties now had a clear agenda to pursue a political solution.


Both sides could point to small victories. The opposition said that the question of political transition was seriously addressed for the first time, while UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said counter-terrorism - an issue pushed by Assad delegation - had been added to the agenda.

"I think, I feel quite comfortable that the so-called three original points of the agenda, 2254 and the fourth additional point which is about terrorism and framed in the way I said, the big difference between what we do in Astana and here can be something that everyone can live with," UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura told a news conference in Geneva.

"I had a feeling that the sides want to find a dialogue. That’s what matters. So, as I told you at the beginning, don’t be surprised, don’t over-estimate, don’t over-react if there are statements which will say ’never’, this is part of the rhetoric, it’s part of posturing, it’s part of politics. I know what I heard and what I saw and that gives me some feeling that we are moving in the right direction," he added.

He said counter-terrorism had been added as a "fourth basket" to the talks, alongside efforts to establish a "credible, inclusive government", drafting a new constitution and holding free and fair elections.

The scope of the negotiation is much narrower than a year ago, when de Mistura also had to hear demands for a ceasefire and release of prisoners.

A shaky ceasefire has been in place since December 2016 and separate talks in Kazakhstan, sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, are dealing with military matters.

"Astana is hostage of Geneva if you want. We are not hostage of Astana, but we are very much complementary, if, and I will almost finish, if Astana succeeds and we want them to succeed, it means ceasefire. If ceasefire takes place, we can have productive talks like we had. If we don’t have productive talks, ceasefire will not lasts. You see how interconnected, so no-one is really at hand of anyone. We are really working hand in hand but there are two hands," the Special Envoy said.

A new round of Astana talks is due on March 14, and Russian officials have said the Geneva negotiations could resume on March 20.