U.N. Peace Envoy Visits Syria as Ceasefire Plan Struggles

A boy looks up as he inspects the damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Douma neighborhood of Damascus. A U.N. envoy arrived in Syria on Monday with hopes of bringing warring parties back to the table to discuss a peace plan. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

DAMASCUS, Feb 16 – Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy for Syria, has arrived in Damascus and will meet Syria’s foreign minister on Tuesday, a Syrian government official said.

De Mistura is making the surprise visit as world powers push for a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict. He suspended peace talks in Geneva last week after only three days, but hopes to bring parties back to the negotiating table by Feb. 25.

“He will be meeting (Foreign Minister Walid al Moualem) [today],” a Syrian government official, who was outside of the country, told Reuters.

A senior U.N. official confirmed that de Mistura had arrived in Syria for an unscheduled visit to “follow up on commitments made in Munich.”

World powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a cessation of hostilities that would let humanitarian aid be delivered in Syria.

The talks in Damascus will include discussion of the resumption of peace talks set for Geneva on Feb. 25, including procedural issues, the Syrian official said.

The ceasefire was scheduled to start a week later, but Syrian army offensives continue unabated across the country, backed by Russian air strikes.

A recent push by Kurdish-backed forces to take territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border from Islamist and other rebel groups is further complicating the conflict. Turkey is now shelling Kurdish positions in Syria.

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