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De Mistura to SvD: "No Syria talks on 25 February”

There will be no resumption of Syria talks 25 February as planned, said U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in an exclusive interview with SvD.

Kriget i Syrien

- I cannot realistically call new Geneva talks for 25th of February. We need ten days preparation and invitations. But we aim to do so soon, said Staffan de Mistura in the interview that was conducted in English.

– Obviously the talks are going to be credible and have chances of success if humanitarian progress takes place and a beginning of a ceasefire is announced.

The Syria talks collapsed in early February after de Mistura called for a "pause". He said then that the talks would resume on 25th February.

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- We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks. Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities, said de Mistura.

– I cannot say when I will call for talks. We have been disappointed in the past, now I am pragmatic and determined. I would like that the USA and Russia, with their partners, agree about a beginning of a cessation of hostilities between today and mid-next week. Now the ball is in their court.

But Staffan de Mistura is still hopeful for a cessation of hostilites, which was part of the agreement reached in Münich by the Syria support group, ISSG. The other important part is access to humanitarian aid for seven besieged areas in Syria, which has started.

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    – On the humanitarian side, the beginning is there but needs to be pushed ahead. At the same time what is new and interesting is the Deir-ez-Zor operation. It is the first operation in a city that has been besieged by IS but is in the hands of the government.

    – The airdrops will be done by WFP (World Food Program) with a substantial financial contribution from the USA. They have announced 10 million dollars for it. This is an important signal of all together trying to address the issue about ISIL and the affected population.

    While there is progress on the humanitarian side, de Mistura also sees possibilities to achieve a cessation of hostilities.

    – Now we have to start looking at maps, where and how a cessation of hostilities can happen. I think we can start working on this today. If that becomes more concrete, then next week we may get into more serious discussions about how talks can take place.

    Mr de Mistura will today fly from Damascus to Geneva for an important meeting with the task force responsible for the cessation of hostilities.

    – During Friday I will meet the USA and Russia. We will start looking at the maps. How shall we geographically define a cessation of hostilities? I hope that the USA and Russia, with their parties, will agree on a beginning of a cessation of hostilities within a week, said Staffan de Mistura.

    – I have insisted that the USA and Russia should be in the frontline on delivering, not the UN. That means they are committed and engaged. We are helping and facilitating, but they are the ones that should deliver with their friends; Russia with the government, Iran, Hizbollah and militias and the USA with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others. It is time to take a serious look at a cessation of hostilities.

    But Russia´s continued bombing of Aleppo and their insistence that they will continue bombing, is a big headache, admits de Mistura. Russia is also reportedly targeting opposition groups in the region, and thereby helping the Syrian forces to seize more ground.

    – This is a period where you will hear a lot of public statements in order to prepare positions, like the positions of Russia and (president) al-Assad. This is part of positioning. Russia want to feel free – even when there is a cessation of hostilities – to still bomb ISIL and al-Nusra.

    But the difficulty "is to define where are the terrorists and who are they", said de Mistura. But he underlined that it is clear from his point of view: "The terrorists are defined by the Security Council - it is ISIL and al-Nusra."

    The increased tensions with Turkish bombardment of the YPG kurds in northern Syria has made the need for a solution even more pressing, said de Mistura.

    – The events along the Turkish-Syrian border, including Russian bombings, refugee movement, and tensions between Turkey and Kurdish forces, are complicating the situation further. This is a reason for more urgency in finding a political solution. Any type of further conflict along the borders of Syria has the potential to spin out of control.

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