U.N. envoy proposes new plan on Syrian conflict

U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura proposed Syria working groups to sort out four big issues

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In a new push to end the prolonged Syrian conflict, the U.N. mediator in Syria’s civil war proposed on Wednesday inviting Syrians to take part in U.N.-led working groups to sort out four big issues, since the warring parties were not ready to hold formal peace talks.

Mediator Staffan de Mistura told the U.N. Security Council the groups would address safety and protection, political and constitutional issues, military and security issues, and public institutions.

“Sadly there is still no consensus on the way forward,” Staffan de Mistura briefed the U.N. Security Council following two months of meetings around the world with key players in the conflict.

De Mistura addressed the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday about months-long consultations with parties to the conflict on re-launching peace talks.

Before his U.N. address, De Mistura met with the Syrian foreign minister as part of diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the four-year conflict gripping the Arab country.

De Mistura added: “While common ground exists (between the Syrian parties), the questions over devolution of executive authority to a transitional body, let’s be honest with ourselves, remains the most polarized element of the Communique.”

He voiced a belief the working groups would be a step towards a “Syrian-owned framework document” on implementing the Geneva Communique.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Syrian political activist Ghassan Ibrahim expressed the opposition's disappointment over the envoy's statements.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has asked the Security Council on Wednesday to ratify De Mistura’s proposal.

The U.N. chief also reiterated his stance that Geneva I communique should be the political platform to end the Syrian conflict.

The Geneva talks marked the first time Syria’s warring sides had sat down together since the war began.

They revolved around the so-called Geneva I communique, drawn up by an international conference in 2012 in the Swiss city which did not involve both sides in the war, and where world powers called for a negotiated political transition in Syria.

A Syrian government crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in 2011 led to an armed uprising. Radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have taken advantage of the chaos to declare a caliphate in territory they have seized in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Wednesday that the death toll from the more than four-year-old civil war was at least a quarter of a million people. De Mistura’s two predecessors resigned in frustration at the failure to make headway in ending the war.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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