GENEVA - The current, seventh round of U.N.-mediated peace talks aimed at ending the long-running conflict in Syria has opened with a sense of cautious optimism that things might be moving in the right direction.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says he does not expect a breakthrough in the negotiations, but he says there is a higher potential than has been seen in the past for progress to be made in ending a war he calls the most complex conflict of our time.
He says some of the optimism comes from the fact the cease-fire agreement in southwest Syria, worked out by the United States, Russia, and Jordan, is broadly holding.
"I feel that when two superpowers, Russian Federation, which is an ally of President (Bashar al-) Assad and the United States of America agree fundamentally at that level in trying to make that cease-fire work, there is a strong chance that that will take place," said de Mistura.
Only sporadic violence has occurred since the truce went into force at midday Sunday. De Mistura says he believes this de-escalation of the conflict in Syria will contribute to the peace talks in Geneva and to cease-fire negotiations in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
"But, will also contribute to reassure the Syrian people that while we are talking, and it may take longer as you know, the negotiations, the people are not going to die because of bombs or any type of massive military activity," said de Mistura.
The United Nations reports the Syrian war, which has entered its seventh year, has killed about 400,000 people, displaced more than six million within the country and prompted nearly five million to flee as refugees to neighboring countries.