The United Nations hopes for a “serious negotiation” between the government and a still-to-be-formed unified Syrian opposition in October or November, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday (August 17).
After seven previous rounds that have failed to persuade the adversaries to hold face-to-face talks, let alone make progress, the veteran diplomat outlined a new timetable for talks to end the six-year war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.
He said he expected a meeting in October, possibly in Riyadh, among the three opposition delegations “to take stock of the realities on the ground”, with a view to consolidation.
Before that, he planned a brief UN round of diplomacy with the oppositions and government around mid-September in Geneva.
“We may be eventually focusing basically on the agenda for the real substantive talks that we hope will take place in October,” he told reporters.
“Regarding the (Syrian) government, we are counting very much on Russia, on Iran, on anyone who has got major influence, and on the government of Syria to be ready finally to initiate when they are invited to Geneva, a genuine, direct negotiation with whatever (opposition) platform comes out.”
The main opposition is the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) but there are two other dissident groupings, the “Moscow” and “Cairo” platforms. The two, much less opposed to President Bashar al-Assad than the HNC, each comprise some activists but do not control territory or have strong links with armed groups.
De Mistura also said that a letter from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in early August had paved the way for Russian military police to be staged along the route of a UN-Red Cross convoy which reached the besieged rebel-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta near Damascus, on Thursday.