News / Middle East

    UN Envoy Warns of 'Worse War' in Syria If Peace Talks Fail

    U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks to media after a new round of negotiations on the Syria conflict at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 14, 2016.
    U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks to media after a new round of negotiations on the Syria conflict at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 14, 2016.
    VOA News

    U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura began a new round of peace talks Monday in Geneva, warning that the only alternative to the negotiations is returning to "even worse war than we had so far."

    Speaking before meeting with a delegation from the Syrian government, de Mistura said it is up to the people of Syria to decide their future, and the U.N. must help them.

    He said the plan is to hold indirect talks with each side for about 10 days, then after a recess convene the next round of negotiations beginning in early April and another one after that. The envoy said he believes the process will yield at least a roadmap for peace

    "By then we believe that we should have at least a clear roadmap – I'm not saying an agreement, but a clear roadmap – because that is what Syria is expecting from all of us," de Mistura said.

    He also stressed the need to maintain the cessation of hostilities and increased humanitarian access that have been in place for more than two weeks.

    But serious questions remain about what each side is prepared to accept in order to stop the fighting that over the past five years has already killed more than a quarter-million people and led millions more to flee their homes. More than 6.5 million people are estimated to be internally displaced, half of them children, and another three million have taken refuge outside Syria.

    De Mistura said the talks will focus on new ways to govern Syria, a new constitution, and what he calls the “mother of all issues” - plans to elect, under U.N. auspices, a transitional government in the next 18 months. 

    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 12, 2016.
    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 12, 2016.

    Syria firm on Assad

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's future is not up for negotiation, while the opposition and many outside of Syria – including the United States – have said Assad must step down in order to achieve peace.

    De Mistura said Monday that public statements by both sides show there is "much distance" between them.

    The U.N. envoy is using an agreement reached by a group of world and regional powers last year in Vienna as the basis for negotiations.

    De Mistura did not comment on disagreements surrounding Assad's future but did acknowledge problems are likely to arise.

    “If during these talks and in the next rounds, we will see no notice of any willingness to negotiate, which we hope is not going to be the case… we will bring the issue back to those who have influence and that is the Russian Federation, the USA, co-chairs of the ISSG (International Syria Support Group) and to the Security Council,” he said.

    De Mistura added the current negotiations are the only hope for a solution.

    “Well, as far as I know, the only plan B available is return to war and to even worse war than we had so far,” de Mistura said.

    French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, March 13, 2016.
    French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, March 13, 2016.

    US position

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday violence has been "hugely reduced" by 80 to 90 percent since the cessation of hostilities went into effect.

    But he accused the Syrian government of "clearly trying to disrupt the peace talks, saying Assad's forces are the "single biggest violator" of the cease-fire.  Rebel groups have also been accused of violating the agreement.

    U.N. officials say the cessation of hostilities has made it possible for U.N. and partner agencies to deliver food, medicine and other aid to 115,000 Syrian civilians living in areas under siege by government or opposition forces. They say last year, aid agencies were unable to access any of these areas.

    But Kerry said he continues to be “deeply concerned” about the Syrian government’s efforts to deter the delivery of medical and surgical supplies.

    Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    Women Voters Look Past Gender in Assessing Clinton

    She's the first female presidential nominee, but party identification, other factors outweigh gender

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 14, 2016 7:55 PM
    I find it hard to believe Russia is abandoning Assad. Russia says it will pull its forces out of Syria. What exactly does that mean? Why are they doing this and why now? Is the price of sustaining their attacks too high? Are they impelled by terrorist attacks on their ground troops (how many generals were killed in a recent car bombing?) Their work isn't done yet.

    It is unfortunate that the US didn't pull out first. Russia's efforts were mostly directed at the rebels, not IS or al Nusra. Will the US step up what seems to be a very slow campaign?

    by: KoreyD from: Canada
    March 14, 2016 11:50 AM
    Kerry should take his own advice and stick to diplomacy, compromise and the agenda of creating a roadmap to peace instead of accusing any faction of violations. Accusations only create hostility and resentment.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora