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UN envoy urges Putin to push for Syria elections

Territorial gains only temporary and peace can only be achieved by new constitution and polls

Image Credit: Reuters
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (second from left) attends yesterday talks with the delegation of the Syrian Negotiation Commission in Geneva.
Gulf News

Geneva: The UN Syria envoy has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “have the courage” to push the Syrian government to accept new elections and a new constitution.

In an unusual public appeal directly to a key power broker in the region, Staffan de Mistura told a TV interviewer the Russian leader should “convince the (Syrian) government that there is no time to lose” in efforts to reach peace in Syria after more than 6-1/2 years of war.

Russia has provided crucial military and diplomatic backing to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces, though Putin announced a drawdown of Russian military forces in Syria this week. He made the announcement during a visit to a Russian military base in Syria in the wake of successes against extremist militants.

Asked on Swiss broadcaster RTS what signal Putin could provide now, de Mistura alluded to how territorial gains would be temporary.

"But the peace must be won — and for the peace to be won, it’s necessary to have the courage to push the government also to accept that there must be a new constitution and new elections.”

The comments late on Wednesday to Swiss broadcaster RTS came near the end of the eighth round of intra-Syrian peace talks under his mediation since early 2016, which is set to end on Friday at the latest. A new session was set to take place on Thursday morning, and de Mistura was signalling frustration at the lack of progress in the round.

De Mistura said it was “regrettable” that Al Assad’s delegation had refused to meet face-to-face with the opposition in what have been indirect talks in Geneva.

He re-emphasised the importance of a UN role in any peace process, and held up a colour-coded map showing the divisions of territorial control in the war-battered country.

Syria’s war is estimated to have killed at least 470,000 people and driven more than 12 million people from their homes.