UN envoy: Warring Syria sides move forward in talks


The United Nations special envoy on Syria said Saturday that the third round of peace talks ended in Geneva with all delegates showing a "respectful tone" that would enable the finding of an agenda for the next meeting later this year. "When we have an agreement on the agenda, we will also then set an exact date for when we meet again," said Geir Pedersen, speaking to journalists at the UN in Geneva.

Meanwhile, opposition co-chair of the talks Hadi al-Bahra said he hoped they would be in late September or early October.

His news conference followed four-days of talks delayed by some delegates testing positive for the COVID-19 virus on the first day, Monday.

The previous round of talks in Geneva late last year had failed due to a failure to agree on the agenda between the Syrian regime side and the opposition.

Pedersen said that he is still trying to build trust between the sides after nearly 10 years of war.

"I was extremely pleased to hear the two co-chairs saying very clearly that they thought also there were quite a few areas of commonalities.

"And what I'm looking forward to is hopefully then when we meet again, that we will be able to build on those commonalities and bring the process, further forward," said Pedersen.

'No permanent cease-fire'

The main opposition leader al-Bahra, former head of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and the meeting's co-chair, also addressed journalists at the UN in Geneva.

"Currently, there is no permanent cease-fire in Syria," he observed.

So as long as there is violence and repeated military clashes, "we will not see the political process moving fast," said al-Bahra saying the responsibly lies with the international community

"Their duty is to push for a full cease-fire in Syria, a permanent one as he noted that Forces from Russia and the United States are in Syria as well as regional players such as Turkey and Iran.

"When we see that happen, we will see the whole process moving faster because all of a sudden, they will know that there is no way for them to achieve a final victory on military terms," he said, referring to the regime forces.

Pedersen said that he addressed the UN Security Council recently in New York and saw "there is strong and united support from the Security Council" on the current peace round.

"All 50 members have expressed strong support to the work of the constitutional committee, and also to the fact that we would be convening here again in Geneva on the work that started on Monday. This support, I think, is extremely important," said the UN envoy.

Ahmad Kuzbari, representing the regime as a co-chair, was not available for comment after the talks halted.

The UN did not say which delegation among the 45 participants was found to have the virus, but opposition sources told Anadolu Agency they believed those who tested positive had come from Damascus, Syria's capital.

Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, over 5 million civilians have become homeless.

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