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Next Round of Syria Peace Talks To Begin on May 16

May 15, 2017 (EIRNS)—UN Special Envoy for Syria Steffan de Mistura provided a preview to reporters today, of how he is going to try to run the sixth round of peace talks on Syria, which opens in Geneva on May 16. According to various news reports, he described a format that is much tighter and "more businesslike" than the previous rounds, with the discussions beginning tomorrow morning and ending on May 19, so that less room will be left for rhetoric.

"Even the rooms will be smaller, the type of meetings will be a little bit more interactive and proactive and more frequent; we will also choose some subjects to be focused on in order to get more movement,"

he said. The aim seems to be to avoid the kinds of dueling press conferences that characterized the earlier rounds, where each side lashed out at the other for the lack of progress. Conditions on the ground and in the diplomatic arena since the last round at the end of March, are different, too, with the de-escalation agreement signed in Astana on May 3-4.

De Mistura also responded to criticism of the Geneva process issued by Syrian President Bashar al Assad, last week, in Assad’s interview with Belarus TV. Geneva "is merely a meeting for the media," Assad said.

"There is nothing substantial in all the Geneva meetings. Not even one per million. It is null. The process aimed in principle at pushing us towards making concessions."

Astana, on the other hand, has

"started to produce results through more than one attempt to achieve ceasefire, the most recent of which is what’s called the de-escalation areas."

De Mistura countered that Assad’s negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari had arrived in Geneva with an 18-strong negotiating delegation "empowered for serious discussions." He denied the U.N. was being used as a diplomatic smokescreen for more war.

"If being a mediator and trying to find common points [means] ’being used,’ I would accept that. The alternative is no discussion, no hope, no political horizon, just waiting for facts on the ground to take place,"

de Mistura told reporters, stressing that the facts on the ground won’t lead to a political solution. While there has been a reduction in the violence, it won’t last without a political horizon to aim at. "That is exactly what we are pushing for," he said.