The Latest: U.N. Syria envoy plans another round of talks
Jul. 14, 2017
GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria and the latest round of indirect peace talks in Geneva (all times local):
The U.N. Syria envoy says he plans to convene in September an eighth round of indirect peace talks between President Bashar Assad's government and opposition leaders.
Staffan de Mistura wrapped up the seventh round of talks Friday, saying it featured "no breakthrough, no breakdown, no one walking out, incremental progress." He says he has asked Assad's envoys "to be ready to address the political process" in the next session in Geneva.
De Mistura also noted progress through international diplomacy, such as a temporary truce in parts of southern Syria that was brokered by Jordan, Russia and the United States.
The envoy also said "I warmly welcome" a call by French President Emmanuel Macron for the creation of a "contact group" that would support a political road map for Syria after its six-year war ends one day.
Referring to the upcoming September round, de Mistura said "we will see whether by that time the international momentum ... may be able to actually push all sides to finally sit in the same room and start talking about substance."
The sides have been meeting separately with de Mistura and his team, but never speaking face-to-face.
After hosting the seventh round of Syrian peace talks, the U.N. envoy for Syria say he has seen no sign that the government of President Bashar Assad has given any ground on possible political transition.
Instead, Staffan de Mistura wrapped up the latest session of the intra-Syrian talks aimed to help end the country's blistering six-year war by turning his focus to one of the Assad government's main talking points: The fight against terrorism.
Syria's main opposition group has strived unsuccessfully to put the spotlight on "political transition" as sought under a Security Council resolution in December 2015. It has been a bedrock text upon which de Mistura's efforts have been based.
The U.N. envoy said Friday "I don't have any indication" that Assad's envoys will ever address political transition.
The Syrian government's top envoy to the U.N.-mediated peace talks in Geneva says his team has not been asked to meet face-to-face with the opposition.
Bashar al-Ja'afari spoke to reporters after his final meeting with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura as this seventh round of indirect talks involving the warring sides since early last year was coming to a close on Friday.
Ja'afari alluded to foreign backers of the main opposition, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as smaller opposition factions.
He says that the "most important thing is for us (government) to have a national partner, and not a client for foreign agendas."
A day earlier, de Mistura acknowledged that he was not "pushing" for the opposition and government delegations to meet directly until they could engage in "real" talks.
A Syrian first responders' group says at least two people were killed in a barrage of airstrikes on the outskirts of Damascus as pro-government forces intensify efforts to push rebels away from Syria's capital.
The Syrian Civil Defense group, more popularly known as the White Helmets, posted a video of rescue workers retrieving one of the victims from the rubble of a building on Friday.
It said at least one other person was killed and several people were wounded.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported ten airstrikes on opposition-held areas of the contested Ein Terma suburb of Damascus in the morning alone.
Local rebel commander Abdelnasser Shamir said on Thursday that the last four weeks of fighting over the suburb have been the "most vicious" in the conflict.