UN Syria envoy says ceasefire 'alive but barely,' calls on Russia and US to revive it

U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura © Denis Balibouse
Acknowledging the increasingly shaky state of the ceasefire in Syria, the UN’s special envoy to the country has expressed hope that Russia and the US can breathe a new impetus that will halt fighting on the ground and solidify the political transition process.

Speaking to reporters following his briefing to the United Nations Security Council and at the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations, Staffan de Mistura acknowledged that the ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia is in “grave danger.”

“It is still alive, but barely. And the perception is that it could collapse any time,” the envoy said. “Let’s put it in a few words- in the last 48 hours we had on the average one Syrian killed every 25 minutes, one Syrian wounded every 13 minutes.”

To save the ongoing political talks and safeguard the February 27 truce, de Mistura expressed hope that Moscow and Washington can revitalize the negotiations by pressuring the warring parties to adhere to the ceasefire.

“We need that to be urgently revitalized... the Russian Federation and the US need to come back again and relaunch it,” he said. “And it is totally possible.”

“And I know that both the Russian Federation and the United States are talking among themselves on how to salvage what is being actually a remarkable success, but needs to be sustained. It will not be difficult for everyone to come back around the table,” de Mistura added.

Calling the US-Russian diplomacy which led to cessation of hostilities a “miracle,” the 69-year-old Swedish career diplomat asserted that the political legacy of both Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama depends on the outcome of the Syrian civil war.

Promising to hold at least another round of negotiations before July and starting most likely next month, he said that at the end of the latest round of negotiations, which concluded in Geneva on Wednesday, the sides made some progress.

Common positions have been outlined in a seven-page document issued at the end of a two-week round of talks. Outlining the commonalities in the negotiations, de Mistura said that, “No one is doubting anymore that there is an urgent need for a true and credible political transition.”

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He also said that the sides agreed that political transition should be overseen by a transitional government which should include members of the present government, opposition, and other independents parties. The new government will also be tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Yet at the same time, the envoy stressed that “there is no denial that there are major differences especially on the major issues,” without specifying which ones.

Asked if the future role of President Bashar Assad was discussed in the negotiations, de Mistura said the parties "didn't get into names of people, who is doing what, but about how to change the current governance."

De Mistura in the meantime aims to convene a ministerial meeting of major and regional powers under the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), before the next round of negotiations is held.