Syria's warring parties agree to Geneva talks - U.N. envoy


  • World
  • Tuesday, 19 May 2020

FILE PHOTO: A girl holds a bag as she walks near the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-held town of Nairab, Idlib region, Syria April 17, 2020. Picture taken April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

GENEVA (Reuters) - Opposing sides in the Syrian civil war have agreed to reconvene in Geneva for negotiations on the constitution, United Nations Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said on Tuesday, saying that it could provide the arena for bridging "deep, deep mistrust".

After nine years of conflict in Syria, Pedersen referred to "relative calm" in the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib as an opportunity for building confidence. He urged the United States and Russia, who support opposing sides, to start talks and back the peace process.

"As soon as the pandemic situation allows, they have agreed to come to Geneva and they have agreed on an agenda for the next meeting," Pedersen told reporters, referring to the government and opposition.

He did not give a date for the constitutional committee, which struggled to make headway last year, and said that a virtual meeting would not be possible.

"We need this to start somewhere," he said. "The Constitutional Committee could be that arena where confidence starts to build."

Pedersen is the fourth U.N. envoy to try to mediate peace in Syria where rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad are holding onto a last piece of territory in the northwest.

Fighting has calmed since March when Turkey, which backs some groups opposed to Assad, agreed a ceasefire with Russia.

Pedersen said it was a "great relief" that there had not been more COVID-19 cases in the country, although warned of the risk of a wider spread. He said there had been 64 cases.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan)

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