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UN Syria envoy says 'momentum' of Vienna talks must not be squandered

Update: November, 11/2015 - 11:43

UNITED NATIONS, United States — The UN peace envoy for Syria urged world powers yesterday to build on the "momentum" of new international talks and come up with a political process to end the four-year war.

"The momentum in Vienna needs to not be missed," Staffan de Mistura told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.

Around 20 countries and international bodies will meet in the Austrian capital Saturday to try to push forward a peace plan for Syria that would include a ceasefire between Bashar al-Assad's regime and some opposition groups.

The envoy said the meetings must "bring some deliverables to the Syrian people. One of them should be reduction of violence."

Three working groups will begin meetings on Wednesday to address differences over terrorism, the opposition and the humanitarian crisis from the war that has left 250,000 dead.

Russia and Iran, which back Assad, are at odds with the United States and its European and Arab allies over which groups should be branded as "terrorists" and which ones qualify as members of the opposition.

The debate will determine who will play a role in the political process.

While the United Nations has branded the Islamic State group, the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and other smaller groups as terrorists, the envoy said it was up to the countries involved to come up with a shared view.

"My job is to make sure that big countries like the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Iran come around the table and come up with a political process," said de Mistura.

"It's time for those countries to pick up those challenges."

During his closed-door meeting with the council, de Mistura held out the prospect of a "concrete outcome" to the Vienna talks, diplomats said.

US Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted: "Upcoming talks in Vienna must lead to ceasefire and path for political solution."

All sides, however, have said differences over Assad's fate remain, with the West still insisting that the Syrian leader must be made to exit the political scene at some point during the transition.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chairs the council this month, said member states gave their "full backing" to the UN envoy's efforts to lay the groundwork for a transition. — AFP

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