UN mediator to resume Syria peace talks next week

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, gestures during a news conference. File photo

GENEVA (UN) – After differences between government and opposition delegations on the priority of humanitarian issues forced a pause in the Intra-Syrian talks earlier this month, the United Nations envoy mediating the discussions has said he intends to resume them by 25 February, and earlier if possible, a UN spokesperson announced on Tuesday.

Ahmed Fawzi, interim Director of the UN Information Service in the Swiss city, said UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura is trying to convince those with influence over the warring parties to persuade them to come to the table and “stop the madness.” 

Mr. Fawzi said the world is witnessing “a degradation” on the ground that cannot wait, but that all parties had to come to the table and certain commitments had to be fulfilled in order to be able to move forward.

He also confirmed that the humanitarian task force was expected to meet again this Thursday, 18 February, and that Senior Advisor Jan Egeland was on his way to Geneva. Stressing that humanitarian work was never paused, Mr. Fawzi said that humanitarians were working around the clock on the ground. 

As such, securing humanitarian access and the cessation of hostilities are high on Mr. de Mistura’s agenda during his trip to Damascus, Mr. Fawzi said.

In the Syrian capital, Mr. de Mistura met with the Foreign Minister on Tuesday, as well as with his team and with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo.

Mr. Fawzi confirmed that Mr. de Mistura and the Foreign Minister had spoken about unhindered humanitarian access to all besieged areas, not just those besieged by the Government. They plan to have another meeting on the topic.

Humanitarian Aid Approved 

Syrian government has approved humanitarian aid deliveries to seven besieged areas, the United Nations said on Tuesday. 

The seven areas are deemed the most in need of relief, according to the 17-member International Syria Support Group. 

The areas include Foah and Kefraya, besieged by rebels; Madaya, Zabadani, Kafr Batna and Muaddamiyah, under siege by pro-Assad troops; and Deir ez-Zor, under siege by ISIS militants. 

“Humanitarian agencies and partners are preparing convoys for these areas, to depart as soon as possible in the coming days,” a UN spokesperson said.

More than half a million civilians live in the besieged areas, according to the UN.

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