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Syria: UN envoy proposes new plan to ‘freeze’ conflict, promote political solution

Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Syria: UN envoy proposes new plan to ‘freeze’ conflict, promote political solution

The war in Syria must be “frozen locally” on the ground so that the growing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be fully confronted, a United Nations envoy said today, suggesting that a peace introduced in increments would also provide all stakeholders with a better understanding of how to bring the three-year conflict to a definitive conclusion.

In an interview with UN Radio, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, described “a feeling of despair and of tiredness” in the Middle Eastern country from which he recently returned, adding that the strongest message he received from people on the ground was an appeal to “stop this carnage” and “give us some light.”

“That was the strongest message I got and that’s why I’ve been so keen in trying to find some entry points to make that difference: not through a conference, not through a seminar, but through something tangible for them,” Mr. de Mistura said.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has led to well over 150,000 deaths, and more than 680,000 people have been injured. At least 10.8 million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, including at least 6.5 million who are internally displaced.

The violence has also spawned a refugee crisis flooding neighbouring countries with some 2.5 million people.

Asked about his “new plan” for Syria and the region at large, Mr. de Mistura said the besieged city of Aleppo provides the best example of where the conflict could be frozen locally, as fighting between opposition and Government forces had ground to a stalemate amid the steady advance of ISIL militants.

“If we can freeze that and show that at least Aleppo can become an area where we can provide some better life for citizens, then the focus can be, as it should be, on [ISIL],” he continued.

The “new plan,” first presented to the Security Council last Thursday, would initially seek to freeze the fighting and create an environment whereby humanitarian aid could reach the beleaguered population in Aleppo. Additionally, it would also provide visible proof that the on-the-ground narrative can be shifted from a military one to a political one.

“If that can be replicated,” Mr. de Mistura said, “then we may have a formula to cool off, if nothing else, the environment in Syria and lead to a political process, as everybody claims should be the case, rather than simply saying it but nothing happening.”

The Special Envoy added that he would soon be returning to Damascus for further consultations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad where the specifics for bringing the plan to fruition would be discussed.

“As you know, the devil is in the details. And the details in this matter count because it means lives saved and locations identified,” he explained.

“That’s why I’ve been proposing Aleppo because it has many ingredients; it is a place which is iconic; it is threatened by the war between the two sides, the Government and the opposition; and it’s now also threatened by [ISIL].”