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.

 

Bloodbath in Syria's eastern Ghouta

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger

IS kills 25 Iraqi militiamen near Kirkuk

Sudan frees dozens of activists detained after protests

Saudi Arabia to host first Arab Fashion Week

Maghreb countries wary about jihadists relocating from Iraq, Syria

Erdogan says Turkey will besiege Afrin "swiftly"

45 civilians killed in air strikes on rebel enclave

Turkey releases leading pro-Kurdish politician

5 Iranian police killed in Sufi protests

Iran finds wreckage of crashed plane on top of mountain

Israel’s gas contract with Egypt: deal or no deal?

Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs

Iran plane crash rescue search halted for second night

France reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal

Turkey warns Syria against protecting Kurds

Abbas warms up to Moscow amid cold US-Palestinian ties

Israel strikes 'historic' gas contract with Egypt

Are Iranian satellite channels aiding regime change?

Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes after rocket attack

Iraq orders deportation of French jihadist

Pro-Assad militias to enter Syria's Afrin

Three Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes