Syria state newspaper criticizes visiting UN envoy

AP News
Posted: Nov 08, 2014 6:56 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A Syrian state newspaper on Saturday criticized the United Nations envoy to the country for pursuing a plan that involves halting fighting in certain areas of the war-ridden nation, hinting that it is not part of his mission.

The daily Al-Thawra newspaper warned that veteran diplomat Staffan de Mistura took a "hasty" attitude in his briefing before the U.N. Security Council last week.

De Mistura is the third envoy to try to bring the three-year civil war to an end. Activists say more than 200,000 people have been killed since protests against the government of President Bashar Assad spiraled into violence in 2011.

The editorial came as de Mistura arrived in Beirut and left immediately by land to Syria's capital, Damascus, where he will begin a three-day visit later Saturday. It is de Mistura's second visit to Syria since he was named for the post in July.

De Mistura is expected to meet high-ranking Syrian officials to present his new initiative on establishing "frozen zones" to halt fighting, especially in the contested northern city of Aleppo.

He sees Aleppo as a good first candidate because the historic city has been threatened both by the Syrian government and by members of the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Al-Thawra said de Mistura deviated from the "limits of the international mission" he was entrusted with. It did not elaborate.

On Oct. 30, de Mistura said at the United Nations headquarters in New York that he was pursuing an "action plan" that involves freezing conflict in certain areas to allow for humanitarian aid and local steps toward a political process that would allow wider peace.

The diplomat also stressed that the Geneva communique, agreed on by major powers at a conference in June 2012 calling for the establishment of a transitional governing body for Syria, was still valid — even though Assad was elected this year to another seven-year term.