Published: Sat, July 15, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

De Mistura calls for intensifying efforts to combat terrorism

De Mistura calls for intensifying efforts to combat terrorism

The UN Syria envoy closed the latest round of sputtering peace talks Friday insisting "incremental progress" was made, driving hope that face-to-face negotiations between armed opposition and the Damascus regime may soon be possible.

Syria's government and opposition negotiators could soon hold face-to-face talks for the first time, United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday, the penultimate day of a round of peace talks in Geneva.

"I felt that there was an expectation for the United Nations to indicate where we are in the fight against terrorism, which is becoming the main issue being discussed at the highest possible level elsewhere", de Mistura said during a news conference, apparently referring to the focus of the Trump administration and others on combating terrorism. "We are actually pushing for areas where they do have common points", he said.

The Chinese envoy, on his fourth trip to Geneva for peace talks on Syria, said that another priority now for the talks is to consolidate the ceasefire on the ground and at the same time achieve some periodical results.

The four baskets are anti-terrorism, governance, constitution and elections. Jordan was also involved in the partial truce deal. It has been a bedrock text underlying de Mistura's efforts.

The U.N. envoy said Friday "I don't have any indication" that Assad's envoys will ever address political transition.

The seventh round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which took place in the Swiss city on July 10-14, has put three participating groups of Syrian opposition closer to the creation of a single, unified delegation as never before.

"The most important thing is for us to have a national partner and not a client for a foreign agenda", he said alluding to foreign backers of the main opposition, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as smaller opposition factions.

He said he planned to convene an eighth round of indirect peace talks in early September between President Bashar Assad's government and opposition leaders and said he has asked Assad's envoys "to be ready to address the political process" in the next session.

The chief delegate for the main opposition High Negotiations Committee, Nasr al-Hariri, told reporters that the talks need to focus on the future of Assad, and he accused the government delegation of stalling the process.

The head of the Syrian government delegation, Bashar Al-Ja'afari, said earlier that his team has not been asked to hold direct talks.

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