The United Nations special envoy for Syria is calling on international leaders to renew talks aimed at ending the 10-year Syrian conflict between the U.S.-allied opposition forces and the Russia-backed Syrian government.
In remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Friday, Geir Pedersen said specific steps such as exchanging prisoners and negotiating a nationwide cease-fire are “of vital concern for average Syrians,” according to The Associated Press.
Pedersen added that movement in these areas would “promote internal and regional stability and build trust and confidence.”
The envoy said that while talks “will not be easy,” he argued that the international community was in “need” of a “new constructive international dialogue on Syria,” the AP reported.
The remarks come ahead of Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenFive things to watch as Biden heads to the UN Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability Majority of voters disapprove of execution of Afghanistan withdrawal: poll MORE’s upcoming meeting in Italy on the crisis in Syria.
Pedersen, who has unsuccessfully attempted to get the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad and the opposition to start negotiating a new constitution, said Friday that he plans on joining Blinken and other foreign ministers in Rome, after which he will visit Moscow.
The AP reported that the envoy then plans to consult with Turkey and Iran, with hopes that a new international dialogue will not take “too many weeks” to start.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed, with roughly 13 million displaced or forced to flee as a result of the violence, according to U.N. estimates.
There have been several attempts among international leaders to reach a peace in the conflict, though they have largely failed at creating long-term stability.
The conflict has also created what the UN has identified as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with Pedersen saying Friday that it was “a profound humanitarian and national tragedy and also a ticking time-bomb for regional stability," according to the AP.
The Biden administration on Friday expressed optimism that it could work with Russia to keep open the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which serves as a critical passageway between Turkey and Syria to deliver humanitarian assistance to Syrians.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Asian Affairs Joey Hood told reporters, “We see here an opportunity to work constructively with Russia on this issue of getting humanitarian assistance to Syrians all across the country.”
The remarks came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had indicated Tuesday that Russia could veto a U.N. Security Council mandate for the border-crossing’s renewal, which is set to expire July 10.
Russia has argued that humanitarian aid should instead be delivered through Damascus, which is controlled by the Syrian government.