UN extends Syria civil war negotiations in Geneva until July

GENEVA (AFP) - The UN's peace envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has extended wide-ranging talks in Geneva by another month until July, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

Ms Jessy Chahine said the talks, launched on May 5 to allow separate consultations with regional and domestic players in the hope of reviving stalled dialogue on the conflict, would continue next month.

She said Mr de Mistura and his deputy had so far met with Syrian government officials, the Syrian opposition coalition and 39 Syrian political and civil society groups.

"They have also held 26 meetings with representatives of concerned member states from the Security Council and the region, as well as regional organisations," she said.

"This process is expected to continue into July," Ms Chahine added.

Iran has participated in the negotiations for the first time.

The UN peace envoy said "there was a general consensus that there cannot be a military solution to the Syrian tragedy," and underscored the need for "an inclusive and Syrian-led and owned political solution."

Ms Chahine said Mr de Mistura would brief UN chief Ban Ki Moon on his findings in the coming weeks.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests. After a regime crackdown, it spiralled into a civil war that has now killed more than 230,000 people, according to the Britain-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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