UN Syria envoy say time may be right for negotiations

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2016 6:09 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia's announcement that Syria was suspending combat operations in Aleppo may mean the time is right to restart negotiations for a peace deal, the U.N. envoy for Syria said Thursday.

Staffan de Mistura said he was encouraged by planned discussions between the U.S. and Russia on Saturday in Geneva to discuss the withdrawal of all opposition fighters from the city.s

"Perhaps now is the time to actually look seriously at the possible renewal of looking at when how we can have political discussions, because there is an awareness that military victory is not peace because peace has to be won separately," de Mistura said following a closed-door Security Council session on Syria.

De Mistura said that he hoped the just announced truce would come to pass and allow some 8,000 people trapped in the besieged city a chance to leave. He said over 30,000 people had already left the city, but the total number of how many remained within remained a mystery.

U.N. officials have long stated that over a quarter of a million people were besieged in eastern Aleppo but now de Mistura said he doubted that there were more than 100,000 people.

Earlier, de Mistura told reporters he expected to meet with members of Donald Trump's in the coming days.

"The plan is to meet some people around the team of President Trump," de Mistura told reporters. He said he expected the meeting to take place Tuesday or Wednesday, but provided no other details.

Security Council action on Syria has been repeatedly blocked by Russia and Western diplomats continued to search for ways around the veto that Syria's close ally enjoys as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Many looked to a Canadian resolution calling for a ceasefire that is expected to be voted on in the 193-member General Assembly on Friday.

Britain's Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he feared the resolution may be "too little, too late."

"But what I hope that it will do is to demonstrate that there is a moral majority here, there are states who are not on the Security Council but have very strong views about peace and security, and who are distressed that through a series of vetoes the Security Council has failed to provide the unity necessary to change the situation in Syria," Rycroft said.

Unlike in the 15-member Security Council, resolutions approved in the General Assembly are non-binding. They do, however, carry the weight of international opinion.