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Syria Talks Due around April 13, U.N. Seeks Political Framework | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura will embark on a tour to Damascus and Tehran and meet other regional officials to look for a common understanding on a political transition in Syria, saying that the next round of peace talks in Geneva is expected to start sometime around April 13.

“The next round of the talks needs to be quite concrete in the direction of a political process leading to a real beginning of a political transition,” de Mistura told a news conference.

After two rounds of “proximity talks” involving Syrian opposition and government representatives in Geneva have ended without any progress on ways to end the war in Syria, De Mistura said he wanted to “verify the position” of international and regional parties to make certain there was a critical mass about “what could be a framework of a political transition”.

De Mistura said he had already heard some interesting ideas from Russia and would also consult Turkish, Saudi, Jordanian and Lebanese officials before the talks resume on April 13. He had previously aimed for a start date of April 9 and then April 11.

On his trip to Moscow, he had reminded officials that an “understanding on a possible framework between the United States and the regional players would certainly make me more comfortable in pushing through meaningful talks soon.”

Syria is holding parliamentary elections on April 13, and the Syrian government delegation would not arrive until April 14 or 15, he said.

Humanitarian Aid

A leader of U.N.-backed humanitarian efforts for Syria expressed his “disappointment” with recent efforts to get aid convoys into hard-to-reach and besieged areas, and is calling on the Damascus government to “live up to its promises.”

Jan Egeland, the humanitarian aid adviser for the U.N.’s Syria envoy, told reporters on Thursday in Geneva that “April was supposed to be our best month” but that aid delivery is “not getting better and better, it’s actually slowing down.”

Egeland spoke during a break in U.N.-sponsored indirect talks between the Syrian government and the opposition delegation, which are to resume next week.

Humanitarian assistance to Syria’s people is part of an international response to the country’s crisis that also includes a U.S.- and Russia-monitored cease-fire that has largely held over the last month.

Workers Kidnapped

Syrian state TV reported that ISIS militants have kidnapped 300 cement workers and contractors in an area northeast of the capital, Damascus.

The TV says the workers from the al-Badia Cement Company were abducted on Thursday from Dumeir.

State-run news agency SANA quoted a source in the company as saying that efforts to establish contact with any of the workers have failed so far.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria conflict, said earlier in the day that contact was lost with dozens of workers in Dumeir.