UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on March 3, 2017. The UN Special Envoy for Syria said Friday that the latest round of Syria peace talks has yielded tangible progress, and that he plans to reconvene with delegations later this month for a fifth round of negotiations seeking to broker an end to the six-year conflict. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)
GENEVA, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The latest round of intra-Syrian peace talks wrapped up on Friday, with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura commending the progress made since negotiations kicked off last week.
"I really want to express my gratitude to the Syrian invitees for engaging with me and my colleagues in serious discussions during these last nine days," the special envoy told press.
"We did discuss procedure, which is unavoidable after ten months, but we also discussed substance," he added.
According to de Mistura, who acts as mediator between rival delegations, bilateral meetings produced an outline which will form the backbone for future rounds of talks.
"I think and believe that we have a clear agenda now in front of us," de Mistura highlighted.
This entails addressing what he called the "four baskets", which relate to key elements laid out in Security Council resolution 2254, namely the formation of a credible and inclusive governance, UN-supervised elections and the drafting of a new constitution.
The inclusion a fourth and final "basket", related to counter-terrorism issues, can be seen as a win for the Syrian government delegation, which has sought to make this controversial topic a priority in past rounds
"We have discussed the substance of all these baskets, stimulated by UN inputs. We have been able to actually see the informed positions of the parties and we have been submitting some thoughts based on previous rounds," de Mistura continued.
The special envoy lauded the fact that opposing delegations sat face-to-face in the same room at a welcome ceremony marking the start of talks on Feb 23., an event which could be seen as a sign that direct discussions are in the pipeline.
He also said that progress has made in forming a unified Syrian opposition, though more work needs to be done to achieve this.
While direct talks between Syrian government and opposition delegations have yet to happen, de Mistura reminded that this remains an objective for discussions seeking to broker a political end to the six-year conflict.
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 seen as key factors if future talks are to avoid an early breakdown.
"It's not snow, it's not rain, it is not an earthquake, the non-access of humanitarian aid is caused by the conflict," de Mistura said.
"If there is a ceasefire that means there should be no reason for not giving a chance for humanitarian aid to reach everyone," he added.
For this reason, de Mistura saw past and future talks in the Kazak capital of Astana as an important factor complementing the political track in Geneva.
He also said that pending discussions with the UN Secretary-General as well as the UN Security Council next week, he hopes to reconvene with warring Syrian parties at the end of the month.