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UN Envoy Seeks to Leverage Earthquake-Induced Calm for Peace in Syria

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The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria highlighted the importance of holding ceasefire talks after the calm atmosphere after two devastating earthquakes hit the region.

“We need calm on the ground. Something I will emphasize when I meet tomorrow with the ceasefire task force here in Geneva,” Pedersen told a news conference, noting that the goodwill that followed the earthquake helped unlock aid. Handovers in Syria must be implemented at the political level to help advance efforts to end the country’s 12-year conflict

He said that the earthquakes centered on Turkey, which struck the region last month, were a warning bell to the world that the Syrian tragedy “has not ended yet,” noting that after 12 years of war and conflict, the Syrians were also A terrible natural disaster.

He said that interest in Syria has been renewed regionally and internationally after the earthquakes.

“We need to take that interest and see if it can help us make progress on the way forward,” he said.

“Without a political solution, the suffering of the Syrians will continue,” he said. “All the challenges that were there before the earthquake are still there and I think this is very important.”

The envoy said that no group or actors “can resolve this conflict on their own,” before adding: “There is a need for a real political process that is led and run by the Syrians themselves and facilitated by the United Nations. There needs to be a concerted international effort to support this with all the key players working in coherent effort.”

“The status quo is unacceptable,” Pedersen said.

He said the catastrophic earthquakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 that struck Turkey and Syria last month, killing more than 50,000 people, were “a wake-up call to the world that the Syrian tragedy is not over yet.”

The earthquake came after nearly 12 years of civil war in Syria that devastated large swathes of the country, claiming nearly half a million lives and displacing millions more.

In northwest Syria, where nearly 6,000 people were killed in the February earthquake, the magnitude of the earthquake tragedy has helped shift long-stranded locations to facilitate aid deliveries to rebel-held areas in the country’s northwest.

More border crossings have been opened to facilitate aid shipments from Turkey, and efforts have been made to deliver aid from government-held areas into the opposition-held northwest.

The United States and the European Union have also eased sanctions to ensure an unhindered flow of aid.

Pedersen praised that “in the aftermath of the earthquakes, humanitarian steps from all sides have surpassed previous positions, albeit temporarily.”

He noted that “a month ago, there was no prospect of further opening of border crossings nor moves to ease sanctions significantly. We have seen both steps now.”

What is needed now, he said, is “the same logic that was applied on the humanitarian front to be applied now on the political level.”

“The earthquake itself showed that positive steps are possible if there is political will.”

Pedersen, who has been trying for years to make progress with the so-called Constitutional Committee for Syria with little success, warned that the current geopolitical situation is not ideal for moving forward.

Last July, he had to postpone a committee meeting indefinitely after Moscow refused to hold it in Switzerland, which has imposed sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine.

Pedersen acknowledged that “today’s international climate may make a comprehensive solution impossible.”

“As long as the Russians don’t want to come to Geneva, the Syrian government doesn’t want to come to Geneva,” he said, adding that he had had “months of discussions” with both of them and hoped “we can also come to Geneva.” To see the progress of this file.

“We can make progress,” Pedersen insisted.

“But then we need to see on all sides a willingness to compromise and move forward in a more serious way.”

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