UN invites US and allies for Syria talks next month

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the Information Service of the United Nations Office at Geneva. (Photo courtesy: United Nations)
Updated 28 August 2018
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UN invites US and allies for Syria talks next month

  • “This is going to be an opportunity to discuss the way ahead on the political process,” UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said
  • De Mistura is tasked with forming a committee of Syrian citizens to draw up the new constitution

GENEVA: U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited the United States and six other countries for talks in Geneva next month, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Tuesday, as the United Nations continues its push for a new Syrian constitution.
He plans to meet senior representatives from the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, France and Egypt on Sept. 14, two days after he receives officials from Russia, Turkey and Iran for previously announced talks.
"This is going to be an opportunity to discuss the way ahead on the political process," U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said.
A U.S. State Department official said the United States would be represented by James Jeffrey, the newly minted special representative for Syria, and Joel Rayburn, the administration's special envoy for Syria.
De Mistura is tasked with forming a committee of Syrian citizens to draw up the new constitution, after receiving nominations from the Syrian government and the opposition.
The planned meetings follow a similar set of talks with both groups of countries in June, although Egypt was not involved in that round.
The discussions about setting up a constitutional committee have made slow progress and represent a big downgrade in the United Nations' ambitions for Syrian peace talks.
For two years the warring sides repeatedly came to Geneva, in a futile search for agreement on political reforms, a new constitution and new elections.
But this year, with little U.S. political involvement and major gains on the battlefield by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, the U.N. political process has largely evaporated.
The U.S. State Department official said the United States would remain engaged with the United Nations and other parties, including Russia, to encourage all possible efforts to advance the political process, and it supported de Mistura's efforts to broker a political settlement.


UN's Middle East envoy urges Israeli ‘restraint’ as Netanyahu warns of further action in Gaza

Updated 14 min 37 sec ago
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UN's Middle East envoy urges Israeli ‘restraint’ as Netanyahu warns of further action in Gaza

NEW YORK: The United Nations' Middle East envoy urged the Security Council to condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Gaza's Hamas toward Israel, saying that it dramatically increased the risk of escalation and a new conflict.

Nikolay Mladenov told the council on Tuesday that "a fragile calm seems to have taken hold." He urged Israel "to exercise maximum restraint as the situation remains very tense," and not use force "without the need for it."

During the latest bout of violence, Mladenov said that at least 103 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza toward Israel, while Israeli forces had conducted 42 airstrikes on various locations in Gaza and fired 16 shells toward Gaza, wounding seven Palestinians and destroying several buildings including Hamas offices and security buildings.

His comments came after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that he was ready to order further action in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after airstrikes in response to the rocket fire.

“I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more. We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state,” Netanyahu told the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC by video link after cutting short a trip to Washington to handle the crisis.

More to follow...