Syria talks to resume in Geneva next month, UN official says

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2015 1:26 PM

GENEVA (AP) — Diplomats will meet in Geneva in January to press ahead with talks aimed to help end the Syrian conflict, a top U.N. official said Tuesday.

Last year, two rounds of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition representatives in Geneva ended in failure over President Bashar Assad's fate. The conflict is now in its fifth year, with at least 250,000 people killed and millions displaced by the brutal civil war.

Although the international community appears now more united in its determination about finding a political settlement to the Syrian crisis, the sides are still stuck on the issue of whether Assad would step down at the beginning of a political transition or whether he can stay on for a while.

Michael Moller, director-general of the United Nations in Geneva, said Tuesday that no date for the talks has been set, but the "intention" was that they will begin "sometime toward the end of the month." He originally said the talks would occur at the U.N. building in Geneva, but his office later clarified that the precise venue in Geneva has not yet been determined.

The Security Council on Friday gave its unanimous support for a peace process for Syria set to begin next month between representatives of the government and the opposition. No site was specified. The roadmap voted on also demands a nationwide cease-fire and eventual elections in Syria.

Moller said constant changes in planning and perceptions among the sides have left many questions unanswered about how the talks will take place.

"Almost everybody wants these talks to be successful, so that we can finally get a political solution to this really unacceptable problem," he said. "I think there will be a little more clarity in the first or second week of January."

He added that the intention is that Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, will start the talks sometime in late January.