Syria: UN mediator intends to resume Geneva talks next week

Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura updates the press on the Intra-Syrian Geneva Talks. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)

16 February 2016 – After differences between Government and opposition delegations on the priority of humanitarian issues forced a pause in the Intra-Syrian talks earlier this month, the United Nations envoy mediating the discussions has said he intends to resume them by 25 February, and earlier if possible, a UN spokesperson announced today.

Chairing the regular bi-weekly press briefing earlier today in Geneva, Ahmed Fawzi, interim Director of the UN Information Service in the Swiss city, said UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura is trying to convince those with influence over the warring parties to persuade them to come to the table and “stop the madness.”

Mr. Fawzi said the world is witnessing “a degradation” on the ground that cannot wait, but that all parties had to come to the table and certain commitments had to be fulfilled in order to be able to move forward.

He also confirmed that the humanitarian task force was expected to meet again this Thursday, 18 February, and that Senior Advisor Jan Egeland was on his way to Geneva.

Stressing that humanitarian work was never paused, Mr. Fawzi said that humanitarians were working around the clock on the ground.

As such, securing humanitarian access and the cessation of hostilities are high on Mr. de Mistura’s agenda during his trip to Damascus, Mr. Fawzi said.

In the Syrian capital, Mr. de Mistura met with the Foreign Minister today, as well as with his team and with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo. The head of the Special Envoy’s Office in Damascus, Khawla Mattar, also attended the meeting.

Mr. Fawzi confirmed that Mr. de Mistura and the Foreign Minister had spoken about unhindered humanitarian access to all besieged areas, not just those besieged by the Government. They plan to have another meeting on the topic.

Later in the day, a UN spokesperson in New York reported that Mr. de Mistura had announced that access to besieged areas had been obtained for convoys, which are coordinated by the UN country team. He said it is the duty of the Government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid. The Special Envoy said this would be tested tomorrow.

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG), comprising the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries including the United States and Russia, laid the groundwork for the intra-Syria talks at a meeting in November 2015.


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