By Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday said he did not expect an immediate breakthrough when Syria peace talks restart this week, but rather productive talks that relaunch the process to reach a political solution to end the six-year conflict. The talks will be the first U.N.-mediated negotiations on Syria in almost a year, during which time the military and geopolitical context has changed massively. Even so, the same disagreements are likely to resurface.De Mistura said Russia, which has supported President Bashar al-Assad's military advances, had asked the Syrian government to "silence their own skies in the areas touched by the ceasefire" during the talks. Countries close to the opposition were also asked to urge them to lessen provocations, he said."Am I expecting a breakthrough? No, I'm not expecting a breakthrough," de Mistura told a news conference. "But I am expecting and determined for keeping a very pro-active momentum," he said.
He said that he hoped neither side would seek to disrupt the talks that start on Thursday by provoking the other, and that momentum towards a political solution was necessary to thwart those bent on derailing peace efforts. "There is a rush between us and the spoilers, we have to outpace those few, but clear spoilers with momentum on the political track and I think we can aim at that," de Mistura said.
While the Geneva talks will focus on politics, de Mistura said he expected more rounds of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, convened by Russia, Turkey and Iran, to deal with the ceasefire and related humanitarian issues, including prisoners. He declined to discuss the format of the Geneva talks, which he said would start with bilateral meetings, and did not say what his objectives were for this round.
But he said the negotiations would be guided by U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 which refers to the establishment of credible and inclusive governance, the process for drafting a new constitution and free and fair elections. "We will be very reluctant to engage in pre-conditions, and in fact I will be refusing them," he said. (Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Lough)
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 00:00 AM