UN suspends latest Syria peace talks

UN suspends latest Syria peace talks

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria speaks to the press on the Intra-Syrian Geneva Talks. 25 January 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria speaks to the press on the Intra-Syrian Geneva Talks. 25 January 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

UN envoy says 'procedural matters' prevented parties from discussing crucial humanitarian issues.

UNITED NATIONS (Talk Media News) – The U.N.’s Syria envoy paused the latest round of peace talks aimed at ending the country’s five-year civil war on Wednesday, citing a lack of commitment by participating parties to end fighting and focus on humanitarian concerns.

This year’s negotiations began with “proximity talks” – in which government and opposition representatives voiced their concerns to Staffan De Mistura, who shuttled between the various parties – but shifted to direct negotiations on Monday. Yet only two days, an intensification of fighting in Syria appears to have hardened positions and destroyed whatever willingness to compromise may have previously existed.

“From the first day I have indicated that I am not prepared to hold talks for the sake of talks,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The UN cannot allow simple procedural matters to actually become more important than actually the results of humanitarian situation of the Syrian people who have been waiting for us to deliver this time, not a conference, but something concrete for them.”

Asked if a recent military offensive undertaken by the Assad government and Russia was responsible for the diplomatic impasse, de Mistura hesitated to name names but blamed “military activities and other reasons” for preventing the negotiating parties from reaching any agreement on humanitarian matters.

De Mistura said he hopes to resume talks on February 25th.

After the failure of a major diplomatic push to end the Syrian war in early 2014 known as Geneva II, De Mistura attempted to restart negotiations by avoiding wide-ranging direct negotiations between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition. Instead, he pursued localized ceasefires and served as an interlocutor, conducting the majority of discussions behind closed doors and encouraging each side to avoid grandstanding in front of the international media.

While that approached achieved some local ceasefires and a recent pullback of rebel forces from the city of Homs, it does not appear to have served as a meaningful confidence building measure leading into the Geneva talks.

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