De Mistura to Report to Security Council on Syria Peace Efforts

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

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Published Wednesday, February 11, 2015

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Wednesday he will discuss his peace efforts with the Security Council, as he wrapped up a visit to Syria where he met President Bashar al-Assad.

De Mistura told a press conference in Damascus that he would deliver a report on his mission before the Security Council holds a "special meeting on Syria" on February 17.

"My focus has been and is the importance of reducing the violence and conflict for the Syrian people, (and) the increase and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance to all Syrians," he said.

"But of course the heart of my mission is to try to facilitate any political process that can lead to a political solution for a conflict that has lasted too long and that has no military solution," de Mistura added.

"I have also, as you can imagine, discussed the issue of the United Nations proposal for a freeze or reduction in the violence for the city of Aleppo," de Mistura said, adding that he could not reveal the content of his discussions with Assad.

"I am bound... to first report to my Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and then to the Security Council which is going to hold a special meeting on Syria," he added.

Western diplomats have said Thursday that the UN plan for local ceasefires in Syria is facing deadlock, with Damascus feeling it does not need to make concessions to disparate armed groups.

Addressing the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels late on February 2, de Mistura said the negotiations were continuing but were not easy.

"We all knew that having a freeze and not a classical old fashioned ceasefire is going to be a complicated one but we are pushing and will never give up," he said.

“De Mistura came to Syria with headlines. We agreed upon certain headlines, and now we are waiting for him to bring a detailed plan or schedule — A-to-Z plan, let’s say. We are discussing this with his deputy,” Assad said during an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine in January, in which he repeated on several instances the need to cut off the sources of funding and aid to jihadist groups, primarily through Turkey.

According to Damascus, Turkey, a NATO member and Washington's key ally in the region, has been playing a major role in fueling the armed crisis in Syria by opening its borders and allowing free access to foreign jihadists into Syria.

Assad had suggested the plan should resemble previous truces.

"We implemented it in another city called Homs, another big city. We implemented it on smaller scales in different, let's say, suburbs, villages, and so on, and it succeeded," he told Foreign Affairs magazine, adding "So the idea is very good."

Assad reiterated that the UN envoy must pressure all states to implement Security Council resolutions 2170 and 2178 on halting funding of terrorists and facilitating their flow into Syria, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

De Mistura was hopeful that all sides would cooperate and back his proposed “freezing” plan in order to restore security to Aleppo.

Since October, de Mistura has been working on a plan to broker "local freezes," starting in the northern city of Aleppo, to alleviate fighting that has killed more than 210,000 people in four years, 2,700 of them in January alone, according to pro-opposition monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He has frequently said the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub before the war, would be a "good candidate" for such a "freeze."

Aleppo, Syria's second city, is at the heart of clashes between government forces and allied fighters and a range of insurgents which include al-Qaeda's Syria wing al-Nusra Front, Islamist brigades, foreign fighters in other groups and Western-backed rebels.

Syria's conflict began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change, but evolved into a brutal war after government forces violently repressed demonstrators. Islamists have since poured into the country from all over the world, seeking to establish an “Islamic caliphate.”

More than 210,000 people have been reportedly killed since March 2011 and half of Syria’s population of 22 million has been forced to flee their homes.

The UN’s special envoy for Syria has said then that 40 years may be needed to restore conflict-hit Syria unless a political solution is reached urgently.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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