The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura addresses media at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 23, 2017. The lack of trust between delegations participating in the latest round of Syria peace talks is one of the main obstacles which must be overcome if any substantial progress is to be made in the coming weeks, the UN Envoy for Syria said Thursday. The Syrian peace talks resumed in Geneva on Thursday. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)
GENEVA, February 23 (Xinhua) -- The lack of trust between delegations participating in the latest round of Syria peace talks is one of the main obstacles which must be overcome if any substantial progress is to be made in the coming weeks, the UN Envoy for Syria said Thursday.
"We must not expect miracles, there have been many problems in the past and I try to be as realistic as possible," Staffan de Mistura told Xinhua in a stakeout, shortly after welcoming participants to the talks in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
"To answer your question, what are the hardest obstacles to overcome, and there are many, first and foremost: lack of trust, this is where mediation can help," he added.
The official made his remarks shortly after extending his welcome to the Syrian government and opposition delegations, as well as to members of the UN Security Council and representatives of the International Syria Support Group.
Though substantive discussions have yet to start, the fact that opposing delegations sat face-to-face in the same room could be seen as a sign that direct discussions are in the pipeline.
The UN envoy said that bilateral meetings will continue tomorrow in a bid to establish procedural guidelines as well as out create a working agenda for upcoming negotiations.
While lauding the fact that all invitees were in the same room this evening, a marked improvement from past talks, de Mistura warned that more needs to be done regarding the opposition delegation, which included members of various rebel groups seeking to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
"You must have seen that there was a very heavy weighted delegation on the side of the opposition in the room. They were including also the armed groups, many of whom have been and are attending the Astana meetings," he said.
"Peace is made between those who fight each over. I will continue encouraging more dialogue and inclusion among the various Syrian parties," he continued.
He also said that he plans to stimulate and incentivize the parties with inputs to pursue the goals set out in UN Security Council resolution 2254.
This calls for, among other things, the establishment of a credible governance, a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution and free and fair elections to take place under UN supervision.
The diplomat had warned Wednesday that though he doesn't expect an immediate breakthrough in this round of talks, he hoped that it will pave the way for future negotiations seeking to broker a political end to the six-year conflict.
He also highlighted that 2017's political track is taking place in a very different context to which last year's UN-mediated negotiations took place.
As well as incremental trust, the upkeep of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey last December and improved humanitarian access in the war-torn country are both seen as key factors if talks are to avoid an early breakdown.
The last time warring parties convened in Geneva was in April last year, a month in which talks were put on hold amid a humanitarian meltdown and systemic violence in the Middle East country.
Since the Syria conflict began in March 2011, an estimated 400,000 people have lost their lives, with millions more forced to flee their homes.