Preparations for UN-facilitated intra-Syrian talks underway

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U.S. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura speaking to president Assad in Damascus. File photo: AP

GENEVA – Continuing his regional consultations ahead of United Nations-facilitated talks on resolving the crisis in Syria, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura reportedly had a ‘useful meeting’ Saturday in Damascus with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walid Mouallem.

According to a note issued by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the meeting, Mr. de Mistura outlined preparations currently underway for the intra-Syrian talks, to be held in Geneva starting 25 January, per the statements adopted in Vienna by the International Syria Support Group and UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). 

That resolution, the Council’s first measure to focus on the politics of ending Syria’s five-year-long war, gave the United Nations an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, and endorsed a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices.

According to the note issued on Saturday, while in the Syrian capital, de Mistura had further exchanges with Mouallem relating to the preparations for the upcoming talks. 

“The Special Envoy is looking forward to the active participation of relevant parties in the Geneva talks. He will be continuing his consultations in the region,” the note concluded.

Damascus Backs Talks 

Syria’s government told a U.N. envoy on Saturday it was ready to participate in Geneva peace talks later this month but said officials wanted to know who would take part from the opposition.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, who met U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura in Damascus, also demanded a list of groups that would be classified as terrorist, state media reported.

The Geneva talks scheduled for Jan. 25 are part of an international bid to end the five-year conflict that has killed an estimated 250,000 people. The plan for a hoped-for ceasefire envisages defining “terrorist groups” in Syria, one of many tough issues facing diplomats.

Moualem told de Mistura “Syria is ready to take part in the Geneva meetings at the proposed time, confirming the necessity of obtaining the list of terrorist organizations and the list of names of the Syrian opposition groups that will take part,” state media reported.

Agencies

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