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De Mistura Stays UN’s Special Envoy for Syria as Geneva Talks Remain Stalled | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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General view of a meeting with Syria’s main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) delegation and UN Special Envoy for Syria during Syria peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool

Geneva – UN had finally given out signs that the Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will remain in position, after days of rumors that he might resign.

Syrian and diplomatic delegations at the Geneva 5 talks had been occupied with the speculations concerning de Mistura’s future. Yet, the conference is still in place without any worth mentioning progress.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov is actively communicating with all Syrian parties in Geneva aiming to achieve developments.

Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Farhan Haq announced that Secretary General is very pleased with the work that de Mistura has been doing and gives him his full support.

UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres urged on Tuesday all parties to the Syrian conflict to exert new peace efforts in the Geneva talks.

During his visit to Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Guterres expressed his support for the efforts of de Mistura, stressing that he is doing an “amazing job” and enjoys his “full confidence.”

“He managed to bring together all parties to the conflict in Geneva. Talks are going on and I wish him the best success together with all those that are meeting with him,” Guterres said.

Guterres reiterated that the war on terrorism in Syria will fail if a political solution to the conflict is not reached.

“Let’s be clear, it’s very important to fight terrorism but the fight against terrorism in Syria will not be successful if a political solution will not be found as well,” he added.

Official sources in Geneva informed Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault contacted UN Sec-Gen informing about the future of de Mistura.

Guterres told the French FM that the UN envoy wanted to end his mission for personal reasons, but he did however indicate that he would extend his task for a determined period of time for the Sec-Gen to determine if any results were achievable during the current talks or the ones that follows.

UN Sec-Gen might resort to assigning a new envoy if no progress has been achieved, according to the sources. And in any case, the sources are relieved for the fact that de Mistura remained in his position “for the time being” because by remaining in his post, this means that international efforts will continue despite not achieving any tangible progress in the Syrian crisis.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gatilov is still contacting all concerned parties including UN envoy and the opposition delegation, whereas he is expected to meet with Syrian parties and representatives of the countries in Geneva.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gatilov met with delegations of the government and Cairo and Moscow platforms.

High Negotiations Committee (HNC) met with Gatilov in UN’s Geneva headquarters but it didn’t disclose the contents of the meeting.

HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet said the talks were very positive and Russia expressed its will in holding discussions to promote the ongoing Geneva talks in the future.

“Russia said the next round of Astana talks will be held in the first week of May, which on this occasion is making preparations for the political progress made here in Geneva,” said Meslet.

Meslet warned that the opposition group may not participate in the next round of negotiations in Astana if the situation on the ground in Syria doesn’t improve.

HNC spokesman informed Gatilov of a two-fold message: the delegation’s seriousness in achieving real constructive involvement according to the agenda set by the UN envoy, and the lack of progress achieved by the government’s delegation.

HNC blamed Syrian government representatives for discussing anti-terrorism instead of peace talks, which they said the government made no progress in during these talks. The opposition also said the Syrian government disrupted the ceasefire which forced residents to flee their hometown.

Humanitarian situations as well as the ceasefire and cases of its violation by the regime were also discussed during the meeting.

Meslet stated that HNC wants to see improvements on the ground in order to decide whether they will participate in next Astana meeting in May or not. He explained that what is happening now on the ground is completely different from what was agreed upon in Astana with violations of the ceasefire in Wadi Barada, Waar, as well as strikes in several areas in Damascus region.

The spokesperson also reported Gatilov saying that Astana 4 will be held in Kazakhstan during the first week of May, two weeks after the “technical” meeting in Tehran on April 18 and 19.

Diplomatic sources in Geneva informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Astana 4 will be on May 4 and 5 and with the same form of previous talks. They added that Gatilov came to Geneva to prevent the failure of the talks and achieve progress in the issue of constitution. The Russian official also wants to pressure the government’s delegation to show openness to political solution.

Syrian government representatives are resisting saying that the constitution is a Syrian matter that only concerns Syrians, and by agreeing to this debate it means they are looking into a process of political transition, something the regime doesn’t want.

Gatilov announced that he had an open exchange of views with HNC and the two came to the common conclusion that it would be very much in favor of having good development this round and continuation of discussions, in order to reach the goal of independent territorial integrity in Syria.

Gatilov said they did not discuss the opposition’s calls for the stand-down of Syrian head of regime Bashar al-Assad, which will be dealt with by de Mistura.

Referring to the issue of a Syrian ceasefire, the Russian official said it was not hopeless and the ceasefire agreement had been observed to some extent according to Russia’s observations, which needs the cooperation of international parties and each Syrian party.

The current atmosphere suggests that the international envoy needs to achieve progress that serves as the bases for new steps, which can’t be accomplished by leaving each party to discuss the issues they feel like discussing.

Foreign diplomatic sources said that de Mistura must attain responses from both parties on issues mentioned in the non-paper presented last Saturday.

Meanwhile, according to sources which informed Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, both the Turkish and US envoys were clear to the HNC that it must accept the envoy’s non-paper.

Head of HNC Nasr al-Hariri described his meeting with de Mistura as “good” adding that they discussed elections.

Nasr hoped these negotiations won’t end up fruitless and would reach a development towards a political process.