News ID: 269288
Published: 0222 GMT May 19, 2020

Syria's warring sides agree to Geneva talks – UN envoy

Syria's warring sides agree to Geneva talks – UN envoy

A girl holds a bag as she walks near the rubble of damaged buildings in the militant-held town of Nairab, Idlib region, Syria, on April 17, 2020.

Opposing sides in the Syrian war have agreed to reconvene in Geneva for negotiations on the Constitution, United Nations Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said on Tuesday, adding that it could provide the arena for bridging “deep, deep mistrust”.

After nine years of conflict in Syria, Pedersen referred to “relative calm” in the last militant-held enclave of Idlib as an opportunity for building confidence. He urged the United States and Russia, who support opposing sides, to start talks and back the peace process, Reuters reported.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy and terrorism since March 2011. Russia has been helping government forces in ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued Arab country.

“As soon as the pandemic situation allows, they have agreed to come to Geneva and they have agreed on an agenda for the next meeting,” Pedersen told reporters, referring to the government and opposition.

He did not give a date for the constitutional committee, which struggled to make headway last year, and said that a virtual meeting would not be possible.

“We need this to start somewhere,” he said. “The Constitutional Committee could be that arena where confidence starts to build.”

Pedersen is the fourth UN envoy to try to mediate peace in Syria where militants fighting President Bashar al-Assad are holding onto a last piece of territory in the northwest.

Fighting has calmed since March when Turkey, which backs some groups opposed to Assad, agreed a cease-fire with Russia.

Pedersen said it was a “great relief” that there had not been more COVID-19 cases in the country, although warned of the risk of a wider spread. He said there had been 64 cases.


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