Syria ceasefire should be 'revitalised' before peace talks resume: UN envoy

UN mediator Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference during the Syria Peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 28, 2016.
UN mediator Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference during the Syria Peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 28, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations' Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said Thursday (April 28) that he planned to hold another round of peace talks next month but called for a ceasefire to be "revitalised" before setting a date.

He made the comments after briefing the United Nations Security Council on progress at the talks, which he said had made gains despite escalating violence on the ground that continued to threaten a fragile truce.

As the latest round of the Geneva-based negotiations went on recess, de Mistura said he wanted to open a fresh set "during the course of May", to build on momentum earned so far.

He added however that he was holding off on fixing a date in hopes that world powers would use their leverage to strengthen the ceasefire, which needed to be "urgently revitalised." "How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling?" de Mistura said.

The UN envoy specifically cited the United States, which supports some rebel groups, and regime-ally Russia as countries that needed to intervene, calling on Washington and Moscow to organise a high-level Syria meeting before negotiations resume.

The talks are focused on creating a transitional government capable of leading Syria out of a brutal civil war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

De Mistura noted that huge divides remain between the sides on the nature of a new government, but he stressed that all parties now recognised the need for political transition, which amounted to progress.

"No one is doubting anymore that there is an urgent need for a true and credible political transition," he said.

"Everybody acknowledges that is the agenda."