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Up to major states to decide on Syria terror groups: UN envoy

The United Nations (UN)’s special envoy for Syria says it is up to the major countries participating in the negotiations on the Syrian conflict to develop a shared view of what groups should be considered terrorist ones in the crisis-hit Arab country.

“As far as identifying terrorists, I have to abide to what the Security Council has decided, and the Council has identified two: ISIL (Daesh) and al-Nusra, and some organizations that are linked to al-Qaeda. I stop there and the rest is up the countries involved in the region and elsewhere,” Staffan de Mistura told reporters at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, on Tuesday.

“My job,” the UN envoy said, “is to make sure that big countries like the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Iran come around the table and come up with a political process.”

“It’s time for those countries to pick up those challenges,” de Mistura added in reference to the task of coming up with a shared view on terrorist groups in Syria.

He added that there had been a decision to create three sub-groups on separate issues, namely terrorism – which he said “is a pending issue” – the opposition and the humanitarian crisis. The three working groups will begin meetings on Wednesday ahead of a second round of the talks on Syria in Vienna, Austria, on November 14.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (C), flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry, speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, October 30, 2015. (Photo by AP)

Around 20 countries and international bodies will be in attendance at the Syria talks. During the previous round of the talks on October 30, the participants, including the United States, Russia and Iran, agreed to push forward a peace plan for Syria that would include a ceasefire.

De Mistura further asked world powers to build on the “momentum” of the fresh Syria talks and come up with a political process.

“The momentum in Vienna needs to not be missed,” he said, adding, “We want the meetings to bring some deliverables to the Syrian people and one of them should be a reduction of the violence, some type of lessening of the conflict and I hope something along those lines can be achieved.”

Meanwhile, Russia has reportedly circulated among the participating countries a document that calls for drafting a new Syrian constitution in up to 18 months. The constitution would then be put to a popular referendum and followed by an early presidential election.

Syrian government forces walk on a heavily damaged street in the northern city of Aleppo, November 9, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

The document also urges the UN envoy for Syria to launch a political process between the Damascus government and “a united delegation of the opposition groups” on the basis of the June 2012 Geneva communiqué. The communiqué demands the establishment of a fully executive transitional government in Syria, and a subsequent presidential poll.

The Syrian conflict, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to the UN.

The world body says 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assistance. The foreign-sponsored militancy has also displaced 7.6 million people.


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