A rebel fighter helps a woman as Syrian refugees return across the Jordanian border near in the southern province of Daraa on August 29, 2017. Photo: AFP | Mohamad Abazeed
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, has highlighted the importance of a political path forward and efforts of the international community to end the civil war in Syria.
“This is a time for realism and focus, for shifting from the logic of war to that of negotiation, and for putting the interests of the Syrian people first,” Mistura told the UN Security Council.
“If I could identify one thing above all that can make the difference, it will be a sense of unity of purpose internationally with clear priorities and common goals.”
Mistura noted that mediating countries Turkey, Iran and Russia “will need to keep actively working, as they have been doing, on de-escalation” in the next round of Syrian peace talks on September 14-15 in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
The UN official also pointed out that Saudi Arabia and other influential countries in the region hold influence over the opposition and can “cohesion and realism of the opposition,” adding his office is ready to support Saudi efforts on unifying the opposition parties.
Additionally, Mistura said it is important to work with the government of Syria and the countries of influence to “assess the situation carefully and signal a genuine readiness for dialogue and inclusion” for the political future of the country.
Wednesday’s briefing comes just weeks before the annual meetings of the UN General Assembly. In a special event hosted in New York by the European Union, the UN will address future stabilization efforts and address the humanitarian needs in Syria, Mistura said.
Following the meeting of the UN General Assembly, the UN’s intra-Syrian talks will take place in Geneva in October.
“It is my hope that both the Syrian Government and the opposition will come to Geneva then to engage in formal negotiations,” de Mistura added.
Iran, Turkey and Russia have held five rounds of peace talks between Syrian regime and rebel groups in Astana, Kazakhstan since January.
The United Nations, United States and Jordan have at different times sent observers to the Astana talks, which have run concurrently with the UN-brokered, more politically-geared Geneva peace talks.
Also at Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, who steps down on Thursday, made an emotional appeal to the 15-member body to do more.
“I am still urging you, in the name of our common humanity, to find a way to stop the Syrian people paying the price of political failure,” he said.
More than half of all Syrians have been displaced by the six-year-long conflict and nearly 500,000 people have died, according to UN statistics.
“This is disgusting. It's scandalous and an outrage and I urge all Member States – in particular those with the influence – to do all they can to bring the parties to their senses,” O’Brien urged.