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UN ready to help Syrians in demining and prisoner exchange

May 22, 20:51 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS

UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura hails the memorandum on de-escalation zones in Syria

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UNITED NATIONS, May 22. /TASS/. The United Nations is ready to offer expert support in creating de-escalation zones in Syria, in humanitarian demining and organization of prisoner exchange between the government and the opposition, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Monday in his report to the Security Council.

He hailed the memorandum on de-escalation zones in Syria that was signed in Astana on May 4 and called on all international players, especially countries of the region, to help implement this agreement.

"The UN remains ready to provide its technical expertise. Our goal is not just de-escalation, but the realization of the nationwide ceasefire, and thus we have a common interest in ensuring that no party takes advantage of any ambiguity which is still happening... or is existing in the memorandum," he said.

He called on the guarantors of the Astana process - Russia, Iran and Turkey - to clarify all the details of the agreement.

Apart from that, he voiced optimism about the serious discussion launched by the guarantors on other major issues, such as prisoner exchange and humanitarian demining. In his words, experts of the three countries have finalized work on a framework agreement that provides for UN’s involvement in settling prisoner-related issues. "We are ready and willing to do so," de Mistura pledged.

"I have urged the Astana guarantors to finalize that technical agreement without delay," he said. "Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Service, which was part of the UN team in Astana, is indeed ready to do its part to advance an effective approach to humanitarian demining in Syria."

At the same time, he called on all international players, including the Astana guarantor nations and all those having influences on the parties to the Syrian conflict, to take measures to ensure humanitarian access to more than 4.5 million Syrians living in hard-to-reach and besieged regions. He admitted that what is currently being done to resolve this problem is not enough.

Syrian delegations to the Geneva peace talks now demonstrate more constructive approach to the negotiating process, with fewer walk-outs, procedural objections and mutual accusations, he went on. 

He reminded that all invited delegations had ultimately taken part in the sixth round of Geneva talks on May 16-19. "The process is now facing fewer obstacles related to political gesticulation, possible walk-outs, procedural objections, long statements attacking each other or even questioning of the other side’s legitimacy. We strongly insisted on that and we got that," he said.

He reiterated that he planned to convene the seventh round in June and told about last week’s expert consultations that were held concurrently with core discussions. In his words, they may involve delegations of the Moscow and Cairo platforms of the opposition, along with the so-called Riyadh platform. "This would send an important new signal of opposition unity. It might be a step towards a common understanding," the UN envoy noted, adding that he planned to begin a series of consultations with Syrian civil society.

"Naturally, there is still a great deal of work to do. We are aware that important gaps remain between the parties on major issues. But having established an agenda, and gone into substance of all baskets, we now have taken a further step in preparing the ground for a real negotiation, which I hope will be possible before too long," de Mistura said.

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