UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura: Promises and Reality

UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura recently claimed that he was appalled and shocked by massive bombardments launched by armed opposition groups on Syria’s western Aleppo. De Mistura also stressed that, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he condemns the attacks on schools in Aleppo. These statements were written in a communiqué published by the UN Information Service (UNIS).

It’s nice that Staffan de Mistura tries to respond to the latest developments in Syria but his attempts which were intended to resolve the conflict yielded no result.

It should be mentioned that since he was appointed as UN Special Envoy for Syria on July 7, 2014, much was expected of him. In Resolution 2165, it was stressed that Mr. Staffan de Mistura’s appointment to the post of UN Special Envoy for Syria might be a positive step towards the renewal of the negotiations on a political solution to the conflict. However, nothing has changed.

De Mistura’s predecessors didn’t achieve success too. Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi weren’t able to solve the Syrian crisis. They faced a dilemma whether to perform their duties aimed at the crisis’ political settlement or to respect the plans of some western countries to continue the US-led massacre.

If we analyze some recent statements and promises, it becomes clear what kind of “success” was achieved by de Mistura on his post.

First, on October 7, 2016, de Mistura asked Damascus a provocative question of whether there was a real need to destruct Aleppo to eliminate thousands of fighters. However, given the fact that the UN Special Envoy is perhaps better than anyone informed of the humanitarian disaster, his stance looks at least strange as militants are still committing atrocities, killing and torturing civilians in Aleppo.

Second, in early October, de Mistura suggested that Al-Nusra’s militants should leave Aleppo with their weapons, promising to accompany them personally as a security guarantee. However, de Mistura didn’t take his plan seriously. Special Envoy did not even bother to back it in the UN Security Council as the Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs Ali Haidar said. Later, the Deputy Special Envoy for Syria said that the UN had received a negative response to such a proposal from Al-Nusra. However, some fighters left Aleppo, but in spite of his proposal de Mistura didn’t personally escort them. And judging by the response of the militants, the UN special envoy has no influence on them.

Third, in September, UN Special Envoy criticized Damascus’s strategy envisaging forced removal of civilians from Darayya and expressed his concern that there might be other cases of such evacuations of entire cities.

However, against the background of civilians’ suffering in Aleppo, the Darayya proposal seems to be the most sensible one. However, why is de Mistura offering the same proposal for another besieged city now?

Fourth, the Special Envoy also promised to do everything in his power to promote the restart of the agreement between Russia and the United States that was reached on September 9.

Moreover, he said that it was necessary to improve the work of the UN Operations Center and Russian-U.S. Coordination Cell in Geneva, the main task of which is to identify those responsible for the ceasefire violations. It is not entirely clear what efforts have been made by de Mistura, as all sides of the conflict keep blaming one another for any incident in Syria. The latest developments show that this Operations Center simply has not started its work.

Besides, in another statement made in Geneva on August 26, de Mistura mentioned that a humanitarian convoy might be sent from Turkey to Aleppo through Castello road. Despite several warnings about a possible attack on the trucks, the officials took a rash decision to send the cargo. As a result, the convoy was hit and the humanitarian operation suspended. The envoy’s guilt on the incident is not just evident but almost undeniable.

It should be also mentioned that Resolution 2254 envisaged Staffan de Mistura summon the representatives of the Syrian government and opposition to hold the negotiations on power transition as early as in January 2016. Several rounds of talks held within this year were fruitless. Staffan de Mistura was expected to announce the date of the next round at the ISSG meeting on September 22 but this never happened. Besides, under Turkey’s pressure, de Mistura refused to invite Syrian Kurds to the negotiations. Nevertheless, he sent an invitation to the radical Islamic opposition, including Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham groups.

Moreover, in October 2015, the diplomat called on for the need to urgently achieve the peaceful settlement so that to avoid an escalation of the conflict in Syria. However, so far the world’s attention is focused on the increasing violence in Aleppo. It seems that the special envoy himself has no plans to make every effort to solve the Syrian problem. Sadly, de Mistura is led by the nose by The High Negotiations Committee of The Syrian Opposition and shifts the blame on the Americans and Russians, who are not be able to reach a consensus. He claims he can start searching for approaches towards the settlement only after the US and Russia compromise.

Actually, on the part of an official of that rank, such an approach is irresponsible. In fact, the envoy is trying to evade responsibility. Everyone knows who has really been refusing to negotiate all this time. As known, at the briefing in August 2016, de Mistura said that the negotiations should be started without any preconditions. But he didn’t even contribute to the beginning of such a process. It turns out that the diplomat contradicts himself.

Thus, it is unclear what the United Nations envoy is waiting for. Doesn’t he have the mandate of the Special Envoy? Isn’t there the need to work towards the new Syrian negotiations? It seems that it’s high time de Mistura voluntarily resigned, as Annan and Brahimi did. The ground for this decision is long overdue: the current UN envoy cannot cope with his responsibilities. The only negative factor is that if de Mistura leaves the office, this may be a signal that the international community leaving Syria. However, the reality is different. The UN needs a competent person, whose actions will fulfill his promises.

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