UN Syria envoy hails progress in peace talks

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UN Syria envoy hails progress in peace talks

The U.N. envoy on Syria says the seventh round of talks aimed at helping end the country's six-year-old war wrapped up Friday, and they featured "no breakthrough, no breakdown, no one walking out, incremental progress".

This past round of talks opened with increased optimism as a cease-fire was recently put in place in southwest Syria, worked out by the United States, Russia, and Jordan.

De Mistura noted the precursor to the latest Geneva talks included a May meeting involving Russia and Turkey in Astana, Kazakhstan, followed by an agreement earlier this month in Amman brokered by the United States, Russia, and Jordan for a ceasefire in southern Syria, which coincided with the G20 summit in Hamburg where Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his US counterpart Donald Trump.

Assad's delegation, led by Syria's United Nations ambassador Bashar Al Jaafari, has declared the president's fate off limits.

De Mistura wants to merge the three opposition groups participating in the talks before holding direct talks between the government and a unified opposition delegation.

"It's always been a trap for the opposition laid by the Russians, through their continual needling of the HNC about there being more than one opposition, which is mostly nonsense with the relative weight of these groups", a Western diplomat said.

The government and HNC traded familiar soundbites before leaving the Swiss city on Friday.

The HNC argues that the government stresses the terrorism issue to distract from Assad's future, the massive hurdle in the way of any prospective deal.

The four baskets are anti-terrorism, governance, constitution and elections.

The UN-led peace talks in Geneva are important in the process for a political solution to the Syrian conflict and the most important thing now is to maintain the peace process in a sustainable manner without disruption or stalling, China's special envoy on the Syrian issue Xie Xiaoyan told Xinhua.

When asked if he has seen any sign that the government of Assad has given any ground on a possible political transition, he said, "no, I don't have any indication".

In New York, France's ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, said a contact group would aim to support de Mistura's efforts.

The sides have been meeting separately with de Mistura and his team, but never speaking face-to-face.

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