UN Syria envoy says Geneva talks in "danger", but will continue

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-13 04:29:32|Editor: Tian Shaohui
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UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (front) briefs the Security Council on the situation in Syria at the UN headquarters in New York, on April 12, 2017. The UN Security Council held a briefing from UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday. The Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution on Syria on Wednesday afternoon. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura Wednesday told the UN Security Council the "fragile" Geneva talks he leads are "in grave danger" and appealed for resumption of the cease-fire following last week's alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province and the U.S. response missile attack on a Syrian airfield.

But de Mistura said in his briefing to the 15-nation UN body that he would remain in his post -- despite rumors to the contrary -- seeking a political solution to the conflict now in its seventh year.

The UN envoy said that after the "horrors of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun" last week, the U.S. cruise missile attack on Shayrat airfield and breakdown of the cease-fire, adding that "This fragile process is indeed in grave danger" and "appeals to all ... to resume the cease-fire."

De Mistura added that following the U.S. missile attack last week, "we have seen more fighting and violence with new claims of the use of cluster ammunition in inhabited areas, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons including in close proximity to Khan Sheikhoun itself."

He feared a path forward that is "more outrageous more destruction, stoked by regional and international divisions or even escalation and deeper confrontation. That is what all Syrians fear and I share their fears. But there is another path, more serious discussion, a real de-escalation and cease-fire and a rallying behind the only way out of the Syrian nightmare."

"We urgently need a consensus among major stakeholders to support concretely the UN-led negotiation process and this is the occasion for doing it, with a goal of a package for an orderly, mapped out credible and irreversible agreed political transition," said the special envoy.

"Before the events of last week we had made modest but incremental progress," he said. "The fifth round of talks in Geneva saw no breakthroughs, let's be frank, but no breakdowns either. The parties engaged indeed, on substance for nine full days. The discussions were business-like, correct and on the final day all of them told me they were ready to return to return to Geneva for a sixth round in May."

The Geneva proximity talks discuss governance, constitutional, election and counter-terrorism issues as well as security and confidence-building measures.

Following de Mistura's briefing. the members of the Security Council spoke, generally repeating their countries various positions, but all calling for a political settlement to the conflict.

After their interventions, Ambassador Bashar Jaafari of Syria spoke of the airfield attack last week, recalling the U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Iraq in 2003.

"The U.S. administration is taking the terrorist war against my country Syria to unprecedented and dangerous levels by switching from a proxy aggression through armed terrorist groups under their control for years to a new and direct aggression through a direct military action against my country, Syria," he said.

"The United States has been leading terrorism in Syria along with its allies and agents in the region," said Jaafari, who also accused Israel of supporting terrorists and "providing air cover against Syrian Army positions."

Turning to the U.S. attack last week on the airfield, the Damascus envoy said that Washington and its allies who had "armed, trained and financed" terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian government, felt they "had begun to lose ground because of the heavy blows dealt to them by the Syrian army. They have launched there premeditated and flagrant attack against Shayrat air base on the pretext of the use of chemical weapons on Khan Sheikhoun."

Jaafari said his government has invited the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send a technical crew to Khan Sheikhoun and Shayrat air base "to uncover the truth" about who used chemical weapons.

"We should all raise our voices in unison and say no to the war that is being promoted by war mongers and the enemies of law," he said.