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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

UN special envoy for Syria

UN Syria envoy to step down next month

The United Nations envoy for Syria announced on Wednesday he will step down at the end of November after more than four years in the key post, setting back UN efforts to end the seven-year war in Syria

"I will myself be moving on as of the last week of November," Staffan de Mistura told the UN Security Council during a meeting on the crisis in Syria.

The Italian-Swedish diplomat, who became the UN's third Syria envoy in July 2014, said he was leaving for "purely personal reasons" and had discussed his plans to leave with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"I am not laying down the charge until the last hour of the last day of my mandate," he said.

Mr De Mistura will be traveling to Damascus next week to push for the creation of a committee to agree on a post-war constitution for Syria.

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Syria is resisting the UN-led effort to set up the constitutional committee that will be comprised of government officials, opposition members and representatives of civil society.

Mr De Mistura was appointed UN envoy for Syria in July 2014 after veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi resigned following the failure of peace talks in Geneva.

Mr Brahimi spent two years in the position, stepping in after former UN chief Kofi Annan quit just six months into the role.

More than 360,000 people have died in the war in Syria, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Al Assad but has since morphed into a complex war with myriad armed groups, some of which have foreign backing.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the European Union called on the guarantors of the Astana agreement to ensure that the latest ceasefire was upheld to safeguard the last remaining de-escalation zone in Syria.

“We emphasise the need for a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire and for safe, sustained and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country,” the statement read. “We fully believe that the Idlib ceasefire agreement should be an opportunity for the urgent resumption of the UN-led political process in Geneva.”

“We express our full support for the efforts of Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, to establish urgently a credible and legitimate constitutional committee to advance the UN’s efforts to achieve a sustainable political solution to the conflict in Syria in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

“We reiterate that the EU will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, negotiated by the Syrian parties to the conflict on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, is firmly under way.”