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Head of UN Humanitarian Taskforce to step down


GENEVA: A day after the UN envoy for Syria announced his planned departure, the head of the humanitarian taskforce for the war-ravaged country said on Thursday he would also resign next month.

“I am also leaving at the end of November,” Jan Egeland told reporters in Geneva.

His comment came after the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, announced on Wednesday that he will step down at the end of next month after more than four years in the key post.

The Italian-Swedish diplomat, who is the UN’s third Syria envoy in six years, said he was leaving for “purely personal reasons,” citing the need to give his family “a little bit of attention” after a long stint in the demanding post.

And Egeland insisted on Thursday that he had already decided when his contract was renewed last month that he would leave at the end of November, and that it was “a coincidence” that he and de Mistura were stepping down at the same time.

He said his three years in the job had been “very exhausting”, especially since he also has a full-time job as head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Both men are leaving as UN efforts to end the seven-year war show no sign of a breakthrough.

More than 360,000 people have died in Syria’s war, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar al Assad but has morphed into a complex conflict with myriad armed groups, some of whom are foreign-backed.

“I presume I will be replaced by somebody better and that they will continue with the task force because the job is not even half done,” Egeland said.

He nonetheless hailed a few positive developments in Syria that had been discussed by countries at a taskforce meeting on Thursday, including the success so far of a Russian-Turkish deal to create calm around Syria’s last rebel stronghold, Idlib.

“It is a welcome calm,” he said.

But overall, Egeland lamented that over the three years he has headed the humanitarian taskforce for Syria, “there has been too many setbacks, we have failed more often than we have achieved what we wanted.” — AFP

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