The U.N. special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Tuesday launched a new effort to find a solution to that country’s four-year-old civil war, meeting with Syria’s U.N. ambassador in the first of what is expected to be weeks of one-on-one conversations that may include commanders from the armed opposition.
De Mistura plans to meet with representatives of more than 40 Syrian groups and 20 nations, including Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, “to get a sense whether another round of peace talks was feasible down the road,” he said.
The last round of peace talks, sponsored by the United States and Russia and chaired by the previous U.N. envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, collapsed in February 2014 when the two camps could not agree on the talks’ goal.
But de Mistura said he’s hopeful that the rise of the Islamic State, whose seizure of Mosul in June last year, may change the way the various sides view the situation. “We will not leave any stone unturned,” he said.
De Mistura’s meeting with Syrian Ambassador Hussam Edin Aala lasted two and a half hours, but there was no information on its substance. Neither man took questions after the meeting ended.
Privately some senior Western envoys, while supportive of the new initiative, expressed doubts about the likelihood of success. One European ambassador, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it was unlikely the talks would bear fruit until after the completion of the so-called P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Those talks have a June 30 deadline for completion, the same date de Mistura is supposed to report to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his progress.