UN envoy sets out framework for sputtering Syria talks

UN envoy sets out framework for sputtering Syria talks

UN envoy sets out framework for sputtering Syria talks Several more rounds of Syrian peace talks will be needed to reach any accord, the U.N. envoy bidding to kick start the sputtering process has told the rival sides, setting out three key discussion areas: governance, constitution and elections.

In a paper given to both sides, and seen by AFP on Feb. 26, he said that by the end of the current session “we would have a deeper shared understanding of how we can proceed in future rounds” in discussing each area.

Syrian regime and opposition negotiators are in Geneva for a fourth round of U.N.-sponsored talks, but they have been overshadowed by deadly attacks on the ground. 

The talks could last until March 5, a couple of days longer than originally scheduled, according to an opposition source. The first full day of talks was Feb. 24.

In the paper handed out in Geneva by U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, he identified the three “baskets” of issues to be discussed as governance, constitution and elections.

“I have asked you to be ready to engage in a continuous and inclusive process over the weeks and months ahead. If we are to succeed, we will need several rounds of talks, obviously,” he wrote in an introduction.

So far there have been no face-to-face talks between the two sides, with the U.N. envoy meeting each delegation separately, as in the three previous rounds the last of which was in April 2016.

Nevertheless “I shall remain open throughout bilateral sessions during these initial talks to all possibilities for direct engagement and negotiations between the sides,” de Mistura wrote.

De Mistura issued orders to Syrian government and opposition negotiators gathered for talks which are showing little sign of progress, overshadowed by more slaughter on the ground.

“Respect the others who are present in these proceedings. No-one has the right to question the legitimacy of others,” he wrote in the one-page ground rules, obtained by AFP.

“Use appropriate language and behavior, and avoid making offensive, degrading, inflammatory or personal attacks, in and out of meetings,” he added.

On the ground, government air raids on northwest Syria killed at least 11 people overnight, mostly civilians, a monitoring group said on Feb. 27, while the military said its forces made advances in Aleppo province.

“Government warplanes carried out air strikes after midnight on several areas in the town of Ariha” in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ head Rami Abdel Rahman.

“The preliminary toll is 11 killed, including at least seven civilians,” three of them children, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Feb. 27 that talks on consolidating the Syrian cease-fire held in Kazakhstan this year helped jumpstart the United Nations-led peace negotiations in Geneva. 

“A mechanism to control the cease-fire has been created, which is the most important thing,” Putin told reporters during a visit to Kazakhstan. 

“This is the foundation that has allowed the Geneva negotiations to resume.” 

Opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush at Syria peace talks in Geneva said on Feb. 27 that his delegation was set to meet Russian Foreign Ministry officials later in the day to discuss promises that Moscow had not kept.