Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

New UN Envoy Kicks off Duties with Talks in Damascus

New UN Envoy Kicks off Duties with Talks in Damascus

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019 - 10:45
UN special envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen arrives in Damascus on January 15, 2019. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Geir Pedersen, the new United Nations special envoy for Syria, made on Tuesday his first trip to the war-torn country since taking office earlier this year.

He held talks in Damascus with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on efforts to revive the peace process.

The Foreign Ministry said on its Facebook page that Muallem welcomes Pedersen’s appointment, adding that Damascus was ready to cooperate with him to ensure the success of his mission to push forward inter-Syrian dialogue to reach a political settlement.

The veteran Norwegian diplomat took over from Staffan de Mistura, who stepped down for family reasons after four years and four months of peace efforts that led nowhere.

Pedersen's office, in a tweet, said the envoy is looking forward to productive meetings in Damascus.

Syria had previously said it will cooperate with Pederson if he avoids the "methods" of his predecessor and commits to Syria's territorial integrity. Damascus had accused de Mistura of “bias”.

Nearly half a million people have been killed in the seven-year war in Syria and various UN-led peace efforts and indirect talks between the Syrian regime and opposition in Geneva ended in failure.

Most recently, de Mistura was working on setting up a committee meant to draft a new constitution — a key step in ending the country's civil war. He said objections from the regime were holding up the committee's launch.

In his farewell UN briefing last month, he said "an extra mile" is needed to form the committee because a list of participants submitted by Russia, Iran and Turkey is unacceptable to the United Nations.

Pedersen has served the UN in various roles including as special coordinator for Lebanon in 2007-2008.

He was a member of Norway's team that negotiated the 1993 Oslo accords, which resulted in mutual recognition between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, and was Norway's representative to the Palestinian Authority between 1998 and 2003.

Editor Picks