UN envoy to discuss Geneva peace talks in Ankara
AP photoU.N. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura will be in Ankara on March 23 to hold talks with the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s undersecretary.
His meeting comes as part of the fifth round of U.N.-backed Syria peace talks, which begin on March 23 in Geneva, with scant hope of a breakthrough against a backdrop of fighting in Damascus and no sign of compromise.
De Mistura visited the Saudi capital Riyadh over the weekend and is set to travel to Ankara from Moscow before returning to Geneva.
“All invitees who had already attended the previous round of talks in February 2017 have confirmed their participation,” de Mistura said in a statement on March 21.
Previous attendees were delegates for the Syrian regime, headed by Bashar al-Jaafari, and representatives of the opposition, led by Nasr Hariri from the High Negotiations Committee. Besides them, the Cairo and Moscow groups also participated in the last round.
The last session in February may have produced a “clear agenda,” according to Mistura, but the regime and rebels oppose each other on all its points.
This round’s agenda includes the issues of governance - a political transition - the constitution, and elections, as well as counter-terrorism at the request of Damascus. The opposition has since 2011 called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but the president refused. The Damascus regime, which describes the rebels as “terrorists,” wants the issue of “counter-terrorism” to be given priority at the negotiations.
The talks aim to find a solution to end the six-year conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with protests against al-Assad’s regime.
Delegations from both sides were due to arrive in Switzerland on March 22, to be welcomed by de Mistura’s deputy, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy.
During the last round, Russian pressure on the Syrian regime seemed to have paid off when Damascus, for the first time, publicly announced it was prepared to discuss de Mistura’s three key talking points of governance, constitution and elections.