April 20, 2018

UN to announce new round of Syria talks – envoy

UN mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura talks to the media upon his departure from Damascus, Syria

The United Nations will name a date on Friday for Syria’s warring parties to return to the negotiating table for a second round of talks, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday.

De Mistura abruptly aborted a first round of talks on Feb 3 and urged countries in the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), led by the United States and Russia, to do more preparatory work.

They met in Munich and pushed for a ceasefire deal, resulting in an agreement on a “cessation of hostilities” that President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition have both said they could support.

De Mistura said he would brief the UN Security Council on Friday and then announce a date for a new round of talks.

“I will announce tomorrow when the parties (will reconvene) and the new talks (will happen),” he told reporters. “We will see you, God willing, tomorrow, for a crucial day in what has been now a very momentous follow-up to the Munich meeting.”

De Mistura’s special advisor on humanitarian issues, Jan Egeland, said humanitarian access had improved in the past few weeks and a cessation of hostilities would further bolster the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“I would say we’re very hopeful, we’re very, very hopeful, that things will now be better,” Egeland said.

The ISSG task force on ceasefires will convene for the first time in Geneva on Friday, De Mistura said – an opportunity for diplomats from ISSG countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to say whether they endorse the US-Russian proposal.

Combatants are required to say whether they will agree to the “cessation of hostilities” in the five-year war by noon on Friday (1000 GMT), and to halt fighting on Saturday.

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