UN’s Norwegian Syria envoy is in place in Damascus

Geir O. Pedersen Geir O. Pedersen.Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix

The UN’s new special envoy to Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, is in place in Damascus, where he has met the country’s foreign minister.

After arriving in Damascus on Tuesday, the 63-year-old said he was hoping for constructive talks with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

One of the first representatives he met was Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem. According to the state Syrian news agency, SANA, Pedersen made it clear that the UN respects Syria’s national and territorial unity, independence and sovereignty.

Al-Moallem emphasized that terrorism must be fought and that all “illegal international presence” in Syria must end. Syria’s government has often used this wording about US and Turkish forces in the country.

Unclear approach

Pedersen, who was previously Norway’s ambassador to China, began working as a Syria envoy last week. His predecessor was the Swedish-Italian diplomat, Staffan de Mistura, who for nearly four years attempted in vain to mediate a peace agreement in Syria.

Pedersen has said little in public about his new role after being appointed, and it is therefore unclear what approach he will take to the task.

Syrian authorities promised to cooperate with the UN’s new special envoy.

‘’Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy, Geir Pedersen, as long as he avoids the methods used by his predecessor’’ said the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Meqdad, to the Syrian newspaper, Al-Watan.

Introduction Visit

‘’This will be an introduction visit. We hope he will achieve what others could not’’ said a Syrian UD spokesman, Ayman Soussan, to the same newspaper on Monday.

The seven-year civil war in Syria has cost at least 360,000 people’s lives, and displaced over 12 million people.

Assad, with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, has gradually recaptured lost areas from the rebels and is increasingly emerging as the victor of the war.

The UN’s role as a mediator in the war has, in recent years, been overshadowed by Russian, Turkish and Iranian involvement. US President, Donald Trump, announced last month that all US soldiers in the country will be withdrawn.

UN envoy, Geir O. Pedersen, will be in Syria for three days.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today