UN envoy says Syria peace talks should restart


United Nations: The UN envoy for Syria has said that political talks to end the nearly six-year war should resume soon.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters yesterday following a closed-door meeting of the Security Council that “now is the time to actually look seriously at the possible renewal of political discussions.”

The envoy raised the possibility of a return to the negotiating table as Russia announced that the Syrian army was halting military operations in order to evacuate civilians from Aleppo.

Backed by Russia, Syrian forces have captured about 85 percent of eastern Aleppo after three weeks of heavy fighting to seize one of the last opposition strongholds.

“Military victories are not a victory for peace, because peace needs to be won separately,” De Mistura said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he hoped talks could resume before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves office on December 31.

“Time is short. It would be important to revive the talks before Mr Ban’s term expires, in just 20 days,” Churkin told reporters.

The last round of UN-brokered peace talks ended in April, with no progress on the key issue of Syria’s future government and the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

De Mistura said talks would be possible if the government in Damascus were ready to “discuss substantially” the terms of a settlement and if the opposition did not “refuse to come.”

Without an effort to restart peace talks, there will be an “impression which no one wants to have that there is only a military victory, only a military solution. There is neither,” he added.

More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011, and over half the population has been displaced, with millions becoming refugees.

Moscow launched an air war in support of Assad’s forces last year, while Washington has supported rebel forces battling the regime.