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Ceasefire in Syria an open-ended process: UN envoy

9 March 2016 23:12



The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says the nearly two-week-old ceasefire in Syria does not need to be renewed because of its “open-ended” nature.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Geneva, he said the truce, which was brokered by Russia and the United States and entered into force on February 27, is still holding “by and large.”

“From the UN point of view and the Geneva meetings we have been having on the task force and certainly (the) Munich understanding, there was an open-ended concept regarding the cessation of hostilities,” the UN envoy added.

During a meeting in Munich last February, De Mistura called on world powers to make more serious efforts to convince the warring sides in Syria to come to the negotiating table.

Elsewhere in his comments, the UN mediator said a new round of talks to end the deadly crisis in Syria is due to start in Geneva on March 14 and will last for 10 days “not beyond March 24.”

Although De Mistura would be having some informal talks over the weekend as participants in the meeting would arrive in the coming days, he said, “the substantive deeper part of it (talks)… will be on Monday.”

“There will [be] a recess of a few days, a week perhaps, 10 days” before the talks resume, he said.

According to the UN envoy, the negotiations will be held in the form of “proximity talks,” which means they would be indirect with the parties in separate rooms and the envoy shuttling between them.

The Syrian government on Monday said it would attend the talks, while the foreign-backed so-called opposition is still considering the matter.

The last round of peace talks collapsed in early February after the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) refrained from attending the sessions amid the Russian-backed Syrian army gains on the battle ground against Takfiri militants.

Observers have rated the upcoming talks as an unequaled chance for the cessation of hostilities in Syria.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

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