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UN envoy questions US engagement on Syria

MUNICH: UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on Sunday questioned US President Donald Trump’s engagement in solving the Syrian conflict, just days ahead of crucial peace talks in Geneva.

“Where is the US in all this? I can’t tell you because I don’t know,” he said, adding that the new administration was still trying to work out its priorities on the issue.

The US’ top three priorities include fighting Islamic State militants, “how to limit the influence of some major regional players and how to not to damage one of their major allies in the region,” said de Mistura.

“How you square this circle, that I understand is what they are discussing in Washington,” he added.

Mistura stressed that what was ultimately key was the prospect of an inclusive political solution to end the conflict.

“Even a ceasefire with two guarantors can’t hold too long if there is no political horizon,” he said, referring to recent talks in Astana brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Any political solution has to be inclusive to be credible, he said, stressing that the Astana talks and the ceasefire agreed provided an opening that should be explored.

A new round of United Nations-led talks are due to be held in Geneva on February 23, involving Syrian regime and rebel representatives.

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington insisted President Bashar al-Assad had to go, putting it at odds with Moscow which backs the Syrian leader.

At the same time, Trump has called for closer cooperation with Moscow to combat IS in Syria and Iraq, leaving the Assad question open.

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