The UN wants progress in the Syrian political process after agreement on Idlib

After the agreement to stop the offensive of the Syrian Government in the province of Idlib, the UN considers that the time has come to urgently move forward in the political process to end the conflict.

The mediator of the organization, Staffan de Mistura, advanced today that during the next weeks will accelerate the talks to try to finally put in place the constitutional committee that should be in charge of reforming the Magna Carta.

So far, that committee agreed to months ago by the parties to the conflict and considered key to a negotiated end of the war has been blocked by the lack of agreement on its composition.

According to the UN, there is consensus that one third of the committee will be representatives elected by the Syrian government, another third of the opposition and one last part representatives of civil society.

The differences are centered on that last group and De Mistura, who has the central responsibility for their formation, suggested today that he could soon set a deadline to start the committee.

The Western powers encouraged him today to proceed and choose those names, expressing full support in any election, while on the other side Russia demanded that “artificial configurations not be imposed”.

De Mistura, speaking to reporters, said he expected the agreement on Idlib to increase interest in discussing the political process during the meetings that heads of state and government around the world will hold next week at the United Nations.

According to the UN envoy, with the imminent risk reduced in that last opposition stronghold, “now we can talk about what really matters: how to stabilize peace.”

The Russian presidents, Vladimir Putin, and Turk, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed yesterday to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib, which for now will serve to suspend the offensive announced by the Syrian Government against the province, bordering Turkey.

The United Nations, which had repeatedly warned that a major battle there could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe, today welcomed the agreement.

The secretary general, António Guterres, stressed that he will offer “relief” to millions of civilians and asked all parties to cooperate for its implementation.

De Mistura also stressed the great importance of the pact, but admitted that there are still issues to be clarified, including what will happen to the thousands of members of terrorist groups such as the Frente al Nusra present in Idlib.

The diplomat, in any case, said that Russia and Turkey are working on that aspect and was confident that there will be answers.

The UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, welcomed the agreement between Moscow and Ankara on the grounds that it “can avoid the catastrophe” on which it had been warned, including the displacement of some two million people.

The question now, according to Lowcock, is whether the pact is “simply the postponement of an execution” or “the first tiny light at the end of the darkest tunnel”.

Photo courtesy of the United Nations (UN), where the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura (l) appears, while offering statements to journalists together with the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock (r), after the meeting of the Security Council on Syria this Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at the headquarters of the agency in New York (USA). After the agreement to stop the offensive of the Syrian Government in the province of Idlib, the UN considers that the time has come to urgently move forward in the political process to end the conflict. EFE / Eskinder Debebe / UN.

In a meeting previously scheduled, the Security Council reviewed on Tuesday the situation in Syria, with a debate marked by that agreement on Idlib and, more at the last minute, by the shooting down of a Russian plane in Syria that cost the life to 15 military.

Moscow blamed Israel today for having provoked with its attacks on Syrian territory the accidental demolition of the plane by the air defense of the Government of Damascus.
At the UN, however, Russia avoided adding fuel to the fire and focused, mainly, on the agreement on Idlib, which it considered “historic” and a sample of its efforts to achieve peace in the country.

Meanwhile, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Yafari, took advantage of his intervention to attack Israel and called on the international community to take measures against the country.

De Mistura, on the other hand, called on all parties to stop their military actions in order to stop a “worrying escalation” of the tension.

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