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UN envoy calls for no foreign interference in Assad fate

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura gives a press conference on March 3, 2016 in Geneva. (AFP photo)

The UN special envoy for Syria says it is only the Syrian people who should decide the fate of their President Bashar al-Assad, rejecting foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

"Can't we leave the Syrians to actually decide on that? Why should we be saying in advance what the Syrians should say, as long as they have the freedom and the opportunity of saying so?" Staffan de Mistura told France 24 TV on Friday.

"We say that it is supposed to be a solution Syrian-led, Syrian-owned," he added.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

A Syrian man pushes his bicycle past a Red Crescent convoy carrying humanitarian aid in Kafr Batna, in the militant-held Eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 23, 2016. (AFP photo)

Damascus accuses Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of funding and arming anti-Syria terrorist groups, including the Daesh Takfiri group.

De Mistura also expressed optimism about a truce that came into force in Syria last Saturday, despite sporadic breaches.

"Yesterday, there were four people killed. Very sad," he said. "But do you know how many were dying just two weeks ago? Up to 120 per day. An average of between 60 and 80 every day."

"How many people were being reached by humanitarian aid in the 18 besieged areas? Zero. What happened in the last 10 days? Well, 242 truck-loads of humanitarian aid reaching seven of those areas," said de Mistura.

The UN envoy said 115,000 people had now received aid, but described the number as "not enough" yet.

A ceasefire agreement in Syria brokered by Russia and the United States entered into force on February 27. The Syrian government accepted the terms of the truce on condition that military efforts against Daesh and the al-Nusra Front Takfiri militants, who are excluded from the ceasefire, continue.

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