UN Syria envoy hails small gains in latest peace talks

Joanna Estrada
July 15, 2017

The seventh round of intra-Syria talks aimed at helping end the country's six-year-old war wrapped up Friday, and the United Nations envoy said they featured "no breakthrough, no breakdown, no one walking out, incremental progress". "No breakthrough, no breakdowns, no one walked out", de Mistura told reporters, summing up the results of Geneva-7 round of negotiations.

The main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, wants a focus on political transition, meaning an end to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

This week's talks were held as a ceasefire was in effect in southwest Syria.

Arriving here in Geneva earlier this week, Xie held meetings with the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, both the Syrian government and opposition delegations as well as senior diplomats from other regional and worldwide powers.

"We have made, as we were expecting and hoping, incremental progress".

The glacial pace of the Geneva talks, which some observers see as simply a way of keeping an avenue for peace talks open in case of an unexpected breakthrough, owes much to the fact that de Mistura has to meet each delegation separately.

De Mistura stressed the importance of helping the opposition to launch closer cooperation with each other, adding that the mechanism of technical consultations was very efficacious for the goal in terms of laying the groundwork for direct talks.

Discussion of terrorism has been a constant demand of the Syrian government since the series of talks began early last year, and it was added to the formal agenda earlier this year, along with talks about a new constitution, reformed governance and fresh elections.

On that front, he praised a new initiative by French President Emmanuel Macron to create a so-called "contact group", including permanent Security Council members and regional powers, like rebel-backer Turkey and regime supporter Iran.

Referring to the September round of talks, de Mistura said, "We will see whether by that time the global momentum. may be able to actually push all sides to finally sit in the same room and start talking about substance".

De Mistura supported the effort, saying he had been in touch with Macron s team and was confident the contact group could help the United Nations peace push, even if its format had not yet been outlined.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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