SUBSTANTIVE SYRIA TALKS TO START MAR 14 FOLLOWING STAGGERED BEGINNING
GENEVA, Switzerland, Mar 10 – UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that, Syria talks scheduled to start today will take place on a staggered basis, with people involved in UN-backed discussions arriving up until the end of the week, so as to start substantive talks by Mar 14.
“The good thing about proximity talks is that, I am in a position to stagger the talks, the dates, the days, the meeting rooms, based on where and how they will be most fruitful. Any type of delay that I may decide to take will be based on how to make them more successful,” he explained.
“We plan to start having informal talks already, in hotels or here, with whoever is arriving, but the substantive, deeper part of it, after the first preparation, will be on Monday, god willing, the fourteenth,” the special envoy added.
De Mistura also said, the first stage of talks will not last beyond Mar 24, after which, a short recess will take place before discussions, aiming to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, resume.
UN-led talks, involving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition forces, came to a premature standstill on Feb 3, after parties failed to see eye to eye on a number of issues.
Since then, much progress has been made on both the humanitarian and cessation of hostilities front, in the country at war since 2011.
Implemented almost two weeks ago, pursuant to an agreement adhered to by 97 armed groups and the Syrian government and backed by regional and international powers, the cessation of hostilities has largely held despite a number of incidents.
This in turn has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people living in hard-to-reach areas, including besieged towns.
To date, De Mistura reported that 536 trucks have provided 238,485 Syrians with life-saving aid.
These issues are not expected to be addressed during the talks, however, as proximity discussions will focus on new governance, constitutional change and presidential and parliamentarian elections.
Though much has been said regarding the looming two-week mark, since the cessation of hostilities began, De Mistura maintained that a deadline had never been part of the deal from an international standpoint.
“From the UN point of view, the Geneva task force meetings we have been having and certainly the Munich understanding, there was an open-ended concept regarding the cessation of hostilities,” he concluded.