The U.N. special envoy for Syria has vowed to take fragile peace talks into next week despite a walkout by the main armed opposition, a breakdown in a truce and signs that both sides are gearing up to escalate the five-year-old civil war.
Staffan de Mistura, who dismissed the opposition’s departure as “diplomatic posturing”, expected the delegation to return to the negotiating table. The opposition declared a “pause” this week because of a surge in fighting and too little movement from the government side on freeing detainees or allowing in aid.
Asked whether talks would carry on, de Mistura said on Thursday night: “We cannot let this drop. We have to renew the ceasefire, we have to accelerate humanitarian aid and we are going to ask the countries which are the co-sponsors to meet.”
The talks at U.N. headquarters in Geneva aim to halt a conflict that has allowed for the rise of the Islamic State group, sucked in regional and major powers and created the world’s worst refugee crisis.
In an interview with French-language Radio Television Suisse (RTS), de Mistura said 400,000 people had been killed in the war, far higher than the previous U.N. toll which has varied from 250,000 to 300,000.