UN envoy says Feb 25 Syria talks unrealistic

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura leaves the Four Seasons hotel at the end of his four-day visit to Damascus, Syria on Feb 18, 2016.
UN special envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura leaves the Four Seasons hotel at the end of his four-day visit to Damascus, Syria on Feb 18, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - The UN special envoy for Syria has warned that the planned resumption of troubled peace talks next week was not realistic, a Swedish newspaper reported Friday.

"I cannot realistically call for new Geneva talks starting on Feb 25," Staffan de Mistura was quoted as telling the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

"We need 10 days of preparations and invitations. But we will aim to do this soon," he said in a telephone interview from Damascus.

Indirect talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition collapsed on February 3 after a Russian-backed regime onslaught on the northern city of Aleppo, and a second round was pencilled in for Feb 25.

De Mistura made a surprise trip to Damascus after world powers last week called for immediate aid access throughout Syria and a "cessation of hostilities" to begin by Friday.

"I cannot say when I will call for talks. We have been disappointed in the past, now I am pragmatic and determined," he told the paper.

"We need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks.

"I would like that the US and Russia, with their partners, agree about a beginning of a cessation of hostilities between today and mid-next week," he said.

"Now the ball is in their court."

De Mistura also warned of the dangers of the five-year Syrian war developing into a wider regional conflict, voicing concern about actions by neighbouring Turkey.

He said Turkey's bombardment of Syrian Kurdish fighters across the border has made the need for a solution ever more pressing.

"Turkey is complicating everything and it might complicate things further. This is a reason for more urgency. Major countries must realise that we need to put a lid on what can become even more of a regional and proxy conflict," he said.

"Any type of further conflict along the border of Syria has the potential to spin out of control."

The United Nations has also begun delivering aid to people living in areas of Syria besieged by the government, rebels and militant forces.

"On the humanitarian side, the beginning is there but needs to be pushed ahead," de Mistura said.