Middle East

UN sets January 25 as target date to begin Syria talks

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria said Saturday he aims to bring together the country's warring factions on January 25 to begin peace talks to end the five-year-old conflict.
Staffan de Mistura "intends to complete his consultations in early January, with a view to initiating intra-Syrian talks on a target date of 25 January 2016 in Geneva," according to a statement issued from his office in Geneva.
"[Mistura] counts on full cooperation of all the relevant Syrian parties in this process. Continuing developments on the ground should not be allowed to derail it," the statement said, adding that the talks aim to convene "Syrian Government and the broadest possible spectrum of the Syrian opposition".
The announcement comes just over a week after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution endorsing a peace plan set out during three rounds of international talks to foster an end to the Syria civil war.
In its resolution, the 15-member body called for a UN-backed political process that would let Syrian factions form a transitional governing body in six months and to hold UN-supervised national elections within 18 months.
It asked UN to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition "to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis", and demanded all warring parties observe a nationwide cease-fire in parallel with the political transition process.
The Syrian civil war, now in its fifth year, has left more than 250,000 victims dead and made the country the world's single-largest source of refugees and displaced people, according to UN figures. 
Neighboring Turkey, which is now the largest refugee-hosting country, has spent nearly $8 billion caring for more than two million Syrian refugees on its soil.

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