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UN Syria Envoy to Assess Progress as Peace Talks Hang in Balance


FILE - U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks at a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 9, 2016.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says he will assess progress in the Syrian peace talks next week and decide whether it is worth continuing the political process or whether it has run its course for now.

De Mistura says he has been informed by the Syrian government delegation that it will rejoin the peace negotiations on Sunday. The delegation quit the talks Friday to, as it said, “consult and refresh” with Damascus.

But before leaving, the head of the Syrian delegation said he would not return unless the opposition withdrew its objection to Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad playing a role in a future government of transition.

De Mistura says he expects the government and opposition sides to negotiate in good faith and with no preconditions on several issues, including a post-war constitution and U.N.-supervised presidential and parliamentary elections.

“Based on that, we will be then assessing whether there is any serious intention, not only in Geneva, but what goes wrong in Geneva is a very bad sign for any other initiative elsewhere,” De Mistura said.

Civil defense members and civilians carry a wounded man in the town of Hamoria, Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, Dec. 3, 2017.
Civil defense members and civilians carry a wounded man in the town of Hamoria, Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, Dec. 3, 2017.

The current round of talks began November 28, and is slated to continue until December 15.

The war in Syria, which is in its seventh year reportedly has killed more than one-quarter million people and displaced more than 11 million inside and outside the country.

Meanwhile, a U.N. Humanitarian task force is reporting continued obstruction by the Syrian government of the delivery of life-saving aid to hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Most serious of all, the United Nations reports the government still refuses to permit the medical evacuation of nearly 500 critically ill and wounded people from Eastern Ghouta, a besieged suburb of Damascus. It warns many of these people could die if they do not receive urgent medical treatment.

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