UN Syria envoy says 'terrorist groups' must be confronted, calls for political solution
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on Sept. 10, shows Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (R), speaking with the United Nations Italian envoy on the Syrian crisis, Staffan de Mistura during a meeting in Damascus. AFP PhotoThe world must confront "terrorist groups" in Syria and beyond but the war-ravaged country also requires a political solution, the U.N.'s new envoy on the conflict said in Damascus on Sept. 11.
"The terrorist groups need to be confronted and that's clear," Staffan de Mistura told journalists after meeting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on his first trip to Damascus since being appointed.
"But there is no contradiction... in fighting terrorism both with security measures... but also with (an) accelerated and effective, all-inclusive political process that will contribute to isolate the terrorists from the rest of the population. "The two should go hand in hand," he said.
De Mistura's comments come as the United States moves to form a coalition of countries to tackle the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group operating in Syria and Iraq.
On Sept. 10, U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington would wage a "relentless" war against the group, including strikes on Syrian soil and the provision of aid to Syrian rebel groups.
De Mistura made no reference to those specific plans, but recalled the U.N. Security Council's unanimous resolution calling for action against groups like ISIL.
"There is a very important priority which has been identified by Resolution 2170, the good news that we have is that everyone is feeling the need to take some initiative regarding terrorism which has become a threat to everyone in the region and beyond," he said.
De Mistura was appointed after the resignation of his predecessor Lakhdar Brahimi, who organised peace talks in Geneva this year that failed to bring the Syrian conflict closer to resolution.
The former Italian deputy foreign minister said he would seek to build on the efforts of Brahimi and his predecessor Kofi Annan before him, while stressing the importance of reducing violence.
"The U.N. will strive and continue to do so particularly now with renewed energy to assist all Syrians... and the Syrian government in order to facilitate reduction of the violence, first priority," he said.
He declined to be drawn on the details of his talks with Assad, which came a day after he met with senior Syrian officials including the foreign minister.
Later Sept. 11, he was expected to meet with representatives of the tolerated domestic opposition before making regional stops to discuss the conflict with other parties.
Details of his travel plans were not released but it was expected that he would travel to Russia, Assad's most powerful international ally.
More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.