Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

UN's new Syria envoy lands in Damascus for first official visit

Syria has said it will cooperate with Mr Pederson if he avoids the "methods" of his predecessor

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (R) meeting with the new UN special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, Damascus.  EPA/SANA HANDOUT  
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (R) meeting with the new UN special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, Damascus.  EPA/SANA HANDOUT  

The UN’s new special envoy for Syria arrived in Damascus on Tuesday, in his first official visit to the war-torn country since he assumed his post in January.

Speaking briefly to reporters upon his arrival in Damascus, Geir Pedersen, said he hopes to have productive talks with Syrian officials.

He held a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Moallem shortly after landing in the capital.

Syrian State-run media quoted the Syrian foreign minister as saying that Damascus is prepared to cooperate with Mr Pedersen toward reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Such a settlement, Mr Al Moallem said, must be based on the "eradication of terrorism and ending all illegitimate foreign presence in Syrian territory."

The veteran Norwegian diplomat took over from Staffan de Mistura, who stepped down for family reasons after four years and four months of peace efforts.

"I hope we will have very substantial and productive talks and look forward to talking to you more after my discussions," Mr Pedersen said.

His office tweeted that he is looking forward to productive meetings in Damascus.

Syria has said it will cooperate with Mr Pederson if he avoids the "methods" of his predecessor and commits to Syria's territorial integrity.

Before leaving his post, Mr de Mistura was working on setting up a committee meant to draft a new constitution — a key step in ending the country's civil war. He said objections from the Syrian government were holding up the committee's launch. In his farewell UN briefing last month, he said "an extra mile" is needed to form the committee because a list of participants submitted by Russia, Iran and Turkey is unacceptable to the UN.

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Updated: January 15, 2019 07:07 PM

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