UNITED NATIONS, The United Nations and the Security Council have welcomed the international talks on Syria held in the Kazakh capital of Astana, and, in separate accounts to the press, said they look forward to the resumption of the intra-Syrian negotiations.

Speaking to journalists in his first press conference since taking office in January, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN presence in Astana was essential to the resumption of talks in Geneva expected to begin later this month.

“Our presence in Astana was an absolute must in order to guarantee that after Astana, we could have Geneva. And in Geneva, we could discuss the key political aspects that are essential to be on the table,” Guterres said.

The two-day talks in Astana were the first time that the Syrian opposition participated in the discussions alongside representatives of the Syrian Government.

The closed-door meeting – convened by Iran, Russia and Turkey, with a representative from the United States attending as an observer – resulted in an agreement on how to monitor the ceasefire effort started in December 2016.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, the Council called the international meeting in Astana “a step towards a strengthened ceasefire.”

The Council’s 15 members said they hoped it would lead to fewer violations, and noted the need for “secure safe and unimpeded” humanitarian access in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

They also expressed hope that the meeting would lead to progress in reaching a political settlement and to efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist activities by the Da’esh, the Al-Nusra Front and others.

The members “look forward” to the resumption of intra-Syrian talks, they said, and encouraged the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to re-convene the negotiations “as soon as possible.”

Speaking to journalists following his briefing to the Council, de Mistura said he had asked the Council to postpone the UN facilitated talks from Feb 8 until Feb 20, in order to give the country’s opposition more time to unite and participate as one group.

“We want to give a chance to this Astana initiative to actually implement itself,” the Special Envoy said.

The talks in Geneva are guided by the UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which endorsed a roadmap for a peace process in Syria, including issues of governance, constitution and elections.

Meanwhile, in ALEPPO, SYRIA, the top United Nations refugee official made an impassioned plea for the world to stand in solidarity with those suffering from the effects of conflict there in Syria, as well as in other places such as Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.

“There are people here, some of them are returning to these ruins, who need help, immediate help. They are cold, they are hungry, they need to work to earn some money, they need the elementary things in life in this very ancient city,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, presently in Aleppo as part of his mission to Syria.

Stating that despite following the crisis closely, nothing prepared him for immensity of the destruction, and the sights in the war-torn country will weigh very heavily on the conscience of the world for generations.

“When you see children’s clothes hanging out of windows, kitchens cut in half by shells and rockets, the real lives of people interrupted by war as it was happening […] You drive for miles and miles you see destroyed civilian houses, destroyed schools, destroyed hospitals. Everything has been ruined,” he added.

Drawing attention to the plight of those who fled such places, he stressed: “This is what refugees from Syria, who are now denied entry [to the United States], have fled from.”

“And it is not just here in Aleppo, although this is massive. Refugees from Somalia, refugees from Yemen, refugees from Iraq – they all flee from destruction like this, from devastation like this.”

Appealing to the global community for accelerated and immediate for humanitarian assistance, High Commissioner Grandi said: “All the Syrian people need help. We cannot abandon them because the crisis is not over.”

“How can we turn them back? How can we not consider giving them protection? At least, for the time while the conflict is continuing, this is what they are escaping from – millions of them,” he said, adding: “The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again of these people – not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart.”

Source: Nam News Network

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UNITED NATIONS, The United Nations and the Security Council have welcomed the international talks on Syria held in the Kazakh capital of Astana, and, in separate accounts to the press, said they look forward to the resumption of the intra-Syrian negotiations.Speaking to journalists in his first press conference since...