UN invites Syria to new peace talks

July 31, 2016  

UN deputy Syria envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy on Sunday invited Damascus to new peace talks with the opposition at the end of August, drawing a positive response from the government.

On Tuesday, the world body’s special envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva he wanted “to proceed with a third round of intra-Syrian talks towards the end of August” after two previous rounds of talks this year ended in failure.

The UN-backed talks are aimed at reaching a political settlement to Syria’s five-year war, which has left more than 280,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes.

But de Mistura has struggled to keep the peace process alive amid a surge in fighting between Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and rebel groups.

In April, the Syrian opposition quit the UN-backed talks, but de Mistura insisted the talks would continue despite that.

“I informed the minister and his deputy of the intention of the special envoy De Mistura to reconvene the inter-Syrian talks towards the end of August,” Ramzy said Sunday after meeting Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and his deputy Faisal Muqdad.

“I explained to the minister how we intend to proceed, and we discussed how to render this process of political transition which has already been endorsed by the Security Council to be a credible one, and we exchanged views on that,” Ramzy said.

He said Muallem “confirmed the intention of the Syrian government to participate in these talks once they are held”.

Muqdad said Syria’s government was “ready to resume the talks with no preconditions in an inter-Syrian context with no foreign interference”, the official SANA news agency reported him as saying.

De Mistura’s announcement comes with the armed opposition facing difficulties, especially in the northern city of Aleppo where government forces are besieging rebel-held districts.

A peace roadmap, endorsed in December by the UN, called for the creation of a transitional body, which should have occurred on August 1, a new constitution and elections by mid-2017.

The opposition is demanding he leave power – dead or alive – before any transitional government is agreed, while the regime says the president’s future is not up for discussion.

AFP contributed to this report.

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