Progress on conflict-free zones at Astana meeting makes the issue of a political settlement all the more urgent
Geneva talks must resume to keep Syria intact, warn UN and EU
The United Nations envoy for Syria and the EU foreign affairs commissioner warned that the Geneva talks on a political agreement to end the conflict must resume to ensure that the country does not end up partitioned.
Speaking a high level panel at the UN General Assembly, Steffan de Mistura said that progress in establishing a series of conflict-free zones in negotiations in Astana had made the issue of a political settlement all the more urgent.
“Are the deconfliction zones going to be limited for six months or do they risk becoming defacto partion of Syria? The answer is no,” the veteran diplomat declared.
Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, announced she was convening a new conference in Brussels next spring to link donations and humanitarian support to political developments.
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“There is no alternative to peace agreement in Geneva,” she said.
The alternative, said Ms Mogherini, was the break-up of the country into a series of cantons that would grant warring factions control over their own territory.
“Partition would lead to more unrest. It is not what the country needs. It is not what the region needs.”
Mr de Mistura welcomed the proposed Brussels conference as a chance to build momentum for a political agreement. He added that a window of opportunity existed to revive Geneva as the main vehicle for efforts to end the civil war.
“We need political de-escalation – that means returning to the Geneva led political process and political discussion,” he said.
A statement from a ministerial conference on Syria also stressed the importance of reviving the political track. Ministers, including those from the UAE, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK and the United States met earlier in the week to discuss Syria and related issues.
“Recovery and reconstruction support for Syria hinges on a credible political process leading to a genuine political transition that can be supported by a majority of the Syrian people," it said. “De-escalation zones and other ceasefire initiatives contribute to setting the foundation for a political solution."
Kuwait’s representative called on all countries that had pledged donations to Syria to follow through on their commitments. “We should recognise the tragedy that this conflict is now going into its seventh year,” said Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, the foreign minister.
The burden on the region was highlighted by several contributors. Imad Fakhoury, Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation, said the protracted conflict had pushed his country’s resilience and capacity to its limits.