Amid ‘some calm’, U.N. envoy urges U.S., Russia push for Syria peace

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FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured), in Moscow, Russia January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United Nations Syria mediator urged the United States and Russia on Monday to make the most of “some calm” in the war-torn country and talk with each other about a push for peace.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.

Islamic State also took advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in Syria.

U.N. Syria envoy Geir Pedersen told the 15-member Security Council that since the war started too many “fleeting opportunities to turn dynamics towards a political path were lost,” warning that those “missed moments were followed by renewed violence and a hardening of positions.”

“With some calm, with the common threats of COVID and ISIS, and with the Syrian people continuing to suffer, I want to stress that renewed and meaningful international cooperation, building trust and confidence between international stakeholders and with Syrians … is essential,” Pedersen said.

“I believe that Russian-American dialogue has a key role to play here, and I encourage them to pursue it,” he said.

Pedersen is the fourth U.N. envoy to try and mediate peace in Syria.

Northwestern Syria is the last major piece of territory held by rebels fighting Assad. Backed by Russia and Iran, Assad waged his latest offensive to recover the area earlier this year. Fighting has calmed since March when Turkey, which backs some groups opposed to Assad, agreed a ceasefire with Russia.

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