The UN Syria envoy closed the latest round of sputtering peace talks Friday insisting “incremental progress” was made, driving hope that face-to-face negotiations between armed opposition and the Damascus regime may soon be possible.
United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva that he planned to convene an eighth round of talks in early September and had instructed all sides to be ready to tackle the flashpoint issue of political transition.
“We have made, as we were expecting and hoping, incremental progress. No breakthrough, no breakdown, no one walking out,” de Mistura said after briefing the UN Security Council by video on the seventh round of talks.
Aside from the main Syrian opposition group, the UN envoy has been meeting with two other opposition groups — known as the Moscow and Cairo platforms.
De Mistura wants to merge the three opposition camps before pushing for direct talks between the government and a unified opposition delegation.
The opposition groups have drawn closer together, built new levels of “trust” and have scheduled to meet again later this month, de Mistura said.
That may make it possible for “all sides to be able to sit in the same room and start talking about substance,” he added, explaining that he would push for direct government-opposition talks in September.
The Head of Damascus delegation, Bashar Jaafari said his side focused on counter-terrorism”as well as “technical, legal and constitutional discussions” during this round.
The Geneva talks focus on four so-called “baskets” — a new constitution, governance, elections and fighting terrorism.