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UN Envoy Launches New Round Of Syria Talks Amid Cease-Fire

UN Special Envoy to Syria Syria Staffan de Mistura (file photo)
UN Special Envoy to Syria Syria Staffan de Mistura (file photo)

The UN's envoy for Syria has opened a new round of indirect peace talks in Geneva between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders.

Speaking at the start of five days of peace talks, Staffan de Mistura told a news conference on July 10 that agreements to de-escalate the fighting in Syria could simplify the conflict and lead to a phase of stabilizing the country, but such deals must be an interim measure and avoid partition.

The start of the seventh round of talks coincided with the first full day of a cease-fire for southern Syria that was brokered last week by the United States, Russia, and Jordan.

The agreement, the first peacemaking effort of the war by the U.S. government under President Donald Trump, was reached outside the Geneva framework.

De Mistura said discussions were happening in Amman to monitor implementation of the cease-fire for southwest Syria.

"The agreement is basically broadly holding, quite well. In all agreements there is a period of adjustment, we are watching very carefully," de Mistura said. "But we can say we believe it has fairly good chances of working out."

Yehaya al-Aridia, a spokesman for the opposition negotiating group, told the AFP news agency that he had "modest expectations" for the new round. The sixth round of Geneva talks, also hosted by de Mistura, ended in May without tangible progress.

The opposition continues to insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down as part of any agreement, while Damascus holds that Assad's role is not up for negotiation.

In addition to the Geneva track, a second negotiating platform emerged in January under the auspices of Russia, Turkey, and Iran that is based in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the conflict in Syria broke out in March 2011.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters