Syria says hopes new peace mediator will be fair

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 23, 2014 7:33 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria urged a newly appointed international mediator to be "objective and honest" as he seeks an end to the country's civil war, Syrian state television reported on Wednesday.

It was Damascus's first reaction to the appointment of Staffan de Mistura by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon two weeks ago, shortly after President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in a June 3 poll.

A U.N. official for 30 years, he replaces Lakhdar Brahimi, who stepped down in May, frustrated by global deadlock over how to resolve the more than three-year conflict.

"We hope that he will take an objective and honest approach based on international law ... particularly the respect of the national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs," the channel said in a newsflash.

Citing a letter sent to the United Nations by the foreign ministry, it said Syria had also called on Mistura to have "respect for the choices of the Syrian people".

Mistura, a dual citizen of Italy and Sweden and a former U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, faces a conflict which has killed at least 160,000, displaced millions and enflamed sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

Brahimi had long threatened to quit the post, as his predecessor - former U.N. leader Kofi Annan - did in 2012.

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The Syrian crisis, which began with pro-democracy protests in 2011, has descended into a fragmented battle between government forces and a myriad of armed groups, ranging from hardline Islamist militants to more moderate rebel fighters.

Islamic State, a radical offshoot of al Qaeda which wants to erase national borders, has been gaining ground. It seized swathes of Syria and Iraq last month and has been reinforcing its position in Syria's oil-producing Deir al-Zor province.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Catherine Evans)