EU and UN call for restarting Syria peace talks

EU and U.N. officials used a conference on international aid for Syria in Brussels on Tuesday to call for a resumption of political negotiations to end the country’s long civil war.

“Real, meaningful political negotiations,” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, said at a news conference, “are clearly the only way forward for the country.”

Standing by Mogherini’s side, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the situation on the ground in Syria had only worsened in recent weeks, including a suspected chemical attack, which Western countries have blamed on the Syrian regime, and retaliatory missile strikes by France, the U.S., and the U.K.

“We have seen in the last few weeks, days, we have seen it with our eyes that military gains, territorial gains, and military escalation does not bring a political solution, has not brought any change,” de Mistura said. “On the contrary we are going through a very difficult moment.”

Mogherini said that a cessation of hostilities was urgently needed, particularly to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

International donors attending the two-day conference in Brussels have pledged more than $6 billion for Syria, but the EU and U.S. have insisted that no funds for reconstruction will be released until there is a negotiated political settlement of the conflict.

Russia and Iran, which have provided strong military backing for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are not participating in the conference.

At the news conference, de Mistura called on these bigger powers to help push for peace talks. He noted that the creation of a constitutional committee, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promised would be developed after a peace conference in January in Sochi, had not materialized.

“Asking the U.N. to do a miracle or the EU to do a miracle when big players are not doing their part is asking for too much,” de Mistura said. “So we are asking them to do their part.”

Mogherini said the Syrian people were suffering and needed to be allowed to decide their country’s political destiny.

“Syria is not a chessboard,” Mogherini said. “It’s not a geopolitical game. Syria belongs to the Syrian people. And the Syrian people have to decide themselves about the future of their country.”

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