GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, plans to convene peace talks in Geneva in about a month’s time, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday.
On Friday the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syria peace process, a rare display of unity among global powers on a conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people.
“The intention is that (de Mistura) starts some time toward the end of January,” Michael Moller, head of the U.N.’s Geneva office, told a news conference, adding that he hoped there would be more clarity in the first half of next month.
“Mr De Mistura is, as you know, basically living on a plane these days. Every day, evolutions in how things are being planned and being perceived by the different parties make it very hard to give you some idea of how this is going to evolve.”
The United Nations has said the talks aim to establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” in Syria and to draft a new constitution in the country now in its fifth year of civil war.
Friday’s resolution gives a U.N. blessing to a plan negotiated earlier in Vienna that calls for a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to create a unity government and hold elections.
The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries meeting in Vienna asked De Mistura to set up the Syria talks in Geneva, while promising they would try to engineer a nationwide ceasefire into force as soon as the talks begin.
But the obstacles to ending the war remain daunting, with no side in the conflict able to secure a clear military victory. Despite their agreement at the United Nations, the major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and Iran have been Assad’s main allies in the conflict, while Saudi Arabia, other Gulf Arab states and Western powers have supported rebels fighting to overthrow him.
The Security Council also called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to draw up options within a month for monitoring a ceasefire in Syria. It is the second time since Syria’s conflict broke out with mass street protests in March 2011 that the council backed a plan for peace talks and a truce.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich