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New round of Syria talks set for March 23 — UN special envoy

March 09, 7:33 UTC+3

Staffan de Mistura added that invitees are to arrive in Geneva around March 22

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The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura

© EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI

UN, March 9. /TASS/. The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura plans to start the next round of talks between Damascus and the opposition on March 23.

Talking to reporters after a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday he said:

"My current intention is to bring the invitees back to Geneva for the 5th round with intended date of the 23 of March." He added that invitees are to arrive around March 22.

He said the type of talks "will be still proximity talks."

"By the way, in Astana it's exactly the same. Getting into direct talks may take place at the right moment, but we see that it's much more productive when we do it through proximity talks, because there is where a mediator can do its job better, and also facilitate the technical aspect of it, because there is a lot of that," he said.

The UN special envoy urged the participants of the forthcoming consultations on Syria in Astana on March 14-15 to tackle the issues associated with maintaining the ceasefire. According to him, it is necessary to ensure that the negotiations in Geneva go in conditions when "massive bombardments" are not being conducted in Syria. De Mistura said that representatives of the UN will attend the meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan.

The UN envoy told the parties to the conflict in Syria to give up hopes of achieving a military victory in the conflict that has been going since 2011, noting that there are those who continue to believe in it.

"I have appealed to all Syrians and outsiders to abandon the fantasies of a military victory. One side they are still sometimes believe that is possible. It is pure fantasy and I can guarantee to you that I know why," he said.

From February 23 to March 3, after a ten-month break, the fourth round of talks with the participation of the delegations of Damascus and the opposition was held in Geneva. As a result, Staffan de Mistura passed out an unofficial document that includes provisions on the territorial integrity of Syria, the preservation of state institutions, including the army, and assistance to refugees. According to the envoy, there are four baskets of issues which will form the agenda for the talks: governance, elections, a constitution, and an additional one on tackling terrorism.

The envoy’s plan is to continue the negotiations until agreement is reached on all these areas.

UN Security Council prepares a statement supporting De Mitsura’s initiative

After the meeting that lasted about three hours, British diplomat Matthew Rycroft, who chairs the Security Council in March, said that delegations from 15 member countries of the Security Council had begun to work on a statement in support of Staffan de Mistura's efforts.

On behalf of the Security Council, Mr. Rycroft called on the negotiators to " to continue to engage constructively, to return for the fifth round and to make sure that the fifth round fulfils on the outcomes of the fourth round" of discussions.

According to him, during the closed meeting, the members of the UN Security Council touched upon the issues related to the observance of the ceasefire in Syria and the lack of access to the population of the country for humanitarian assistance.

In his turn, France's Permanent Representative to the UN, Francois Delattre welcomed the progress that had been made during the last round of talks:

"The important thing is that now we have a clear roadmap and based on this roadmap we have the tools to enter the core issues of the political negotiations for the first time," he said.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said after the UN Security Council meet that she supports the efforts of de Mistura and the continuation of talks in Geneva under the aegis of the UN.

"We're going to continue to watch the process but it's one that we support, it's one that we want to see a solution too," she said. The diplomat did not rule out that the US delegation will be present at the next round of talks.

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