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UN Syria envoy de Mistura to step down at end of November

The photo shows UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura answering questions at a press conference held after a Security Council meeting on October 17, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has announced that he would resign at the end of November for "family" reasons.

"I've been always indicating to the secretary general my plans for personal reasons, which is not health, it's family, basically... I'm fine and I'm not even tired, because this has been giving me a lot of adrenaline, this type of mission," de Mistura said at a press conference on Wednesday after a UN Security Council's meeting on Syria.

Being appointed to the position in July 2014, the Italian-Swedish diplomat would be the third envoy after late UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to leave his job.

The UN-backed peace process in Syria, dubbed as Geneva talks, are the longest-running attempt at peacemaking in the Arab country by the mediators that have been convened eight times with no significant progress.

Asked whether he is leaving the job over frustration, de Mistura insisted that he is quitting for “purely personal reasons," adding, "I have always been an optimist."   

According to the UN diplomats, UN Envoy for Iraq Jan Kubic, former Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov and Norway's Ambassador to China Geir Pedersen are possible replacements for de Mistura.

Last-ditch effort

De Mistura further noted that he would do all his efforts to form a credible committee to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country.

He said there is an agreement on a 50-member government and opposition delegation, but the Syrian government has some objections, adding that he would visit Damascus next week to win the government's approval.

Meanwhile, Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia announced during the Security Council's session that Moscow wanted the constitutional committee to be formed as soon as possible but that "setting artificial deadlines in this case would be counterproductive."

"In order for the process to be trustworthy, then there has to be the agreement of all parties and that takes time. So we need to be patient," Nebenzia said.

Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari also said that his government is committed to forming a constitutional panel. 

Formation of the committee was agreed at a Syrian peace conference in the Russian ski resort of Sochi in January. Participants stipulated that the constitutional committee should be made up of 150 people, with a third chosen by the government, a third by opposition groups and a third by the United Nations.

The UN Security Council mandated de Mistura to get a deal on the new constitution.

This comes as parallel efforts are underway by Iran, Russia and Turkey to find a political solution to the ongoing militancy in Syria. The three states serve as guarantors of the Astana process, a track of negotiations which have resulted in the return of a succession of militant bastions to the government fold and movement of civilians to safe zones.

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