United Nations sees direct Syria talks soon but not pushing for it

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De Mistura: Direct Syrian Talks in Upcoming Rounds

The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced the conclusion of the latest round of the Syria peace talks, saying that the next round will convene in September.

"We made, as we were expecting and hoping, incremental progress".

Envoy Staffan de Mistura says the Syrian government has not budged in its unwillingness to discuss political transition at the talks in Geneva while President Bashar Assad's representatives have pursued an nearly incessant theme of the fight against terrorism.

The Italian-Swedish diplomat, who has headed the United Nations peace efforts in Syria since July 2014, spelled out that during the week-long talks, he asked all involved parties to discuss substantial issues on four topics: governance, constitution, re-elections and anti-terrorism.

This week's talks were held as a ceasefire was in effect in southwest Syria.

The head of the Syrian government delegation, Bashar al-Jaafari, said on Friday that his team has not been asked to hold direct talks.

De Mistura wants to merge the three opposition groups participating in the talks before holding direct talks between the government and a unified opposition delegation.

Referring to the September round of talks, de Mistura said, "We will see whether by that time the worldwide momentum. may be able to actually push all sides to finally sit in the same room and start talking about substance".

The government and HNC traded familiar soundbites before leaving the Swiss city on Friday. The opposition's disarray is one reason Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's representatives have refused to negotiate with them.

Jaafari said his side focused on "counter-terrorism" as well as "technical, legal and constitutional discussions" during this round.

The "four baskets" are: a credible non-sectarian transitional government; a future constitution; early and free parliamentary elections within 18 months; and a united war against terrorism within Syria.

De Mistura pointed out that the file of combating terrorism was discussed at the highest levels, and fighting terrorism will be only against those who have been classified as "terrorists" by the Security Council.

De Mistura praised a new initiative by French President Emmanuel Macron to create a so-called "contact group", including permanent Security Council members and regional powers, like rebel-backer Turkey and government supporter Iran.

"I have been asking them for the next round to be ready to address the political process", he said.

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