Syria: UN envoy cites possibility of ceasefire, future political framework to end conflict

Children at Atme camp for displaced people in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey. About 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced by violence. Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN

19 November 2015 – After briefing an informal session of the United Nations General Assembly about the “deliverables” that had come out of the recent international talks in Vienna on the Syria crisis, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura today indicated the possibility of a ceasefire in the war-torn country, through continued discussions and with active inclusion of all parties involved in the conflict.

The key deliverables reached by the so-called International Syria Support Group, which has thus far held two rounds of talks in the Austrian capital, Mr. de Mistura said, included a future political roadmap on a political process in Syria, and also on aspects related to a nationwide ceasefire connected to a political dialogue to take place in Geneva.

“This is an opportunity for the Syrian opposition to come and be as inclusive as possible and as prepared as possible,” he told reporters at the UN Headquarters on being asked about the list of participants in future talks.

Mr. de Mistura emphasized that while the possibility of establishing a ceasefire is not guaranteed, he was hopeful that certain countries who “have the capacity of influencing those who are fighting,” in Syria are part of the peace talks and added that these countries “have an interest in seeing a ceasefire taking place.”

“We already have the list from the Syrian Government. There are more than 40 people. We know who will be leading them at the Geneva discussions but it is extremely important to have a cohesive, comprehensive and well-inclusive opposition [group],” said Mr. de Mistura stressing the need to include the opposition parties in the discussions.

Speaking about the failure of local ceasefires, Mr. de Mistura said that without the influence of foreign sponsors, the ceasefires are unlikely to hold.

However, he added that while the ongoing peace talks aim to establish a ceasefire throughout the country, the regions now controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), such as Raqqa and Palmyra, will likely not be a part of the ceasefire.

When asked about the disagreements over President Bashar al-Assad’s role, Mr. de Mistura emphasized that the Vienna talks included plans of not only establishing a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, but also the formation of new non-sectarian governance structures, a new constitution, and conducting elections that go beyond parliamentary polls.

“That’s quite a package that even a disappointed opposition could look at with interest,” he said.

Lastly, the UN envoy dismissed the recent comments made by President Assad in an interview stating that no political process will be allowed unless Syria is liberated from terrorists.

“Every time there is a political process starting and the possibility of a ceasefire there are going to be a lot of statements which are in fact preparing, prepositioning [and] positioning the sides. What matters is what happens in Vienna meetings and the negotiations,” said Mr. de Mistura.

Just before Mr. de Mistura addressed the press, Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly said that in light of recent developments in Syria and the region, it is crucial that the United Nations enhances the level of its engagement and contributes to restoring sustainable peace and stability. “We are very hopeful that momentum can now be created.”

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