Meetings between Syria’s warring factions and the U.N.’s Syria envoy begin this week in the latest bid to kick-start stalled negotiations to end the country’s four-year-old civil war.
The talks will last from four to six weeks and will be held at mostly ambassadorial and expert level.
U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura will hold separate in-depth consultations with each of the parties on the dire situation in Syria.
U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said de Mistura will take stock of their views on reopening peace talks based on the 2012 so-called Geneva communiqué. One of the points in this accord involves a commitment to form a transitional government.
All-encompassing list of participants
Fawzi told VOA the list of participants invited is large and all encompassing.
“Everybody involved in the Syria tragedy, whether they are regional players, whether they are neighbors, whether they are P5 members are invited. We are starting, the Special Envoy, of course, is starting with the Syrians, both government and opposition and will also be meeting the stakeholders I just mentioned, regional and international, separately, separately low key, low profile,” he stated.
Invitees reportedly include the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. However, Fawzi notes the militant groups Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra have not been invited because they are classified as terrorist organizations. But, he added people who have relationships with these groups and can communicate with them will be at the meeting.
The talks are not off to an auspicious start. They follow two previous rounds of failed peace talks – Geneva I and II.
De Mistura is the third special envoy to tackle this intractable conflict. He faces an even more daunting task than his predecessors in his reach for a political solution.
If anything, the political climate and catastrophic humanitarian situation has gotten worse.
As Syria enters its fifth year of war, international agencies report more than 220,000 people have been killed and more than half the country’s population of 22 million is displaced both within and outside the country.
While some diplomats are skeptical about de Mistura’s chance of success, Russia reportedly has said it hopes the talks will lead to a united front against terrorism followed by a political transition.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he would be willing to talk with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to help broker an end to the civil war.
The U.N.'s Fawzi said no major announcements are expected at the end of these consultations.
“We do not expect any concluding communiqués that will be signed by everybody. There will be no final curtain call when he thinks he has finished the process,” he said. “We said initially five to six weeks. He will sit down assess progress if any and then report to the Secretary General with his assessment and his recommendations.”
Fawzi said the closed-door talks will officially begin Tuesday afternoon. He said the special envoy and his deputy will meet each party separately anywhere from one to six hours or longer. He said there are no time limits to these private, open-ended talks.