DAMASCUS: UN special envoy Geir Pedersen called on Sunday for a “step for step” approach in finding a political solution to Syria’s conflict, following his tour of Europe, the US and Arab states.

Several rounds of United Nations-brokered negotiations in Geneva since 2019 between the government and opposition aimed at forging a new constitution have so far failed.

“I think there is a possibility now to start to explore what I call ‘a step for step’ approach, where you put on the table steps that is defined with precisions, that is verifiable, that hopefully can start to build some trust,” he said after talks in Damascus with Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

“My message is that there is another possibility to start to explore possible avenues, to start to move forward on this process,” he told journalists.

Pedersen has toured all the main foreign players with a stake in Syria’s conflict.

With major fighting having subsided since 2020, Damascus has made inroads into easing its international isolation, especially with fellow Arab states.

“I think we should now analyse not only the Arabs but also the American position, the Europeans, the Turkish, the Russians, the Iranians,” the UN envoy said.

The war in Syria is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions more since it began with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011.

It quickly spiralled into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers.

Throughout the civil war, the UN has been striving to nurture a political resolution.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2021

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