The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura is proposing a freeze on fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo as a first step toward re-igniting the failed Syrian peace process. He says it is urgent to take concrete action to end the devastating conflict, which is now in its fourth year.
Nearly one year ago, the Geneva II Peace Conference on Syria collapsed, dashing hopes for a political settlement to end that country’s three-year-old civil war. Since then, the ever-worsening conflict has been sitting on the international and national backburner.
De Mistura says it is time for the world to get serious about a conflict that is the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. He says it is tragic that people all over Syria continue to be living under constant fear of attack.
De Mistura warns the rest of the world is not immune to the fear as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris show. He says the Syrian conflict and the presence of IS and other foreign fighters in the country are having terrible consequences elsewhere.
“This is why we have got on the table and we have put on the table the proposal of a freeze of heavy fighting in Aleppo, and eventually the return for a united, reconstructed Syrian city as it used to be because it is a symbolic microcosm of all of Syria ... because while the government and the opposition continue being involved in heavy fighting between them, IS is only 20 miles away from Aleppo,” he said.
De Mistura says he and his delegation are engaged in ongoing negotiations and discussions with the government of Syria and various opposition leaders to try to get the peace process underway.
He agrees the situation in Syria has deteriorated since Geneva II, making it more difficult to get people around the peace table. But he tells VOA there are two new factors that could prompt calls for a Geneva III Peace Conference.
De Mistura says IS and another terrorist organization, al-Nusra, are operating in large parts of the country. Because of the new threat posed by these groups, he says no one in Syria believes the war can be won, including Bashar al-Assad.
“I have been meeting twice with the President Assad, and I could see how concerned himself was about this new threat of terrorism, and of IS/Daesh in particular,” he said.
“And do not forget that there is a new factor too which has been brought into the Syrian geographical environment, which is the American-led coalition fighting Daesh,” he added. “So, there are many new elements into the geography and into the politics which are certainly different from the time of Geneva II.”
De Mistura says what has not changed since the collapse of Geneva II is the suffering of the people. He notes 220,000 people have been killed, one million Syrians wounded, more than 10 million are internally displaced or have fled the country and become refugees.
He says diseases, such as polio, typhoid, and measles have returned to Syria and economically and socially the country has gone 40 years backwards.