Syria says ready to cooperate with new UN envoy Pedersen

DAMASCUS: Syria is ready to cooperate with new UN envoy Geir Pedersen as long as he avoids the methods of his predecessor, its deputy foreign minister said in remarks published on Sunday.
Pedersen, who assumes the role at the end of November, is the fourth negotiator to have been appointed the UN’s special envoy to Syria since the country’s war broke out in 2011.
A seasoned Norwegian diplomat, he replaces Staffan de Mistura, who announced he is leaving the post last month after a four-year stint.
“Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Meqdad said, quoted by Al Watan newspaper.
It would work with him if “he announces his support for the unity of Syria’s land and people and does not side with the terrorists as his predecessor did,” he added, referring to rebel groups.
The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has long accused De Mistura of bias during his tenure.
Its opponents have said the change in UN envoy would have little impact on the fate of the country as international will and consensus were lacking.
Yahya al Aridi, spokesman for the Syrian Negotiations Commission, this week said he hoped Pedersen would be “more decisive” and call things out for what they are.
De Mistura, an Italian-Swedish diplomat, announced he was stepping down to spend more time with his family after four years in the demanding post.
Meanwhile, the IS group killed 12 US-backed fighters in a surprise attack on Sunday from the militants’ holdout in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border, a Britain-based monitor said.
Twelve fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were killed and 20 wounded in a car bombing and subsequent clashes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
An SDF spokesman, however, denied any members of his Kurdish-led alliance had been killed.
“There are counter-attacks every day and the clashes are ongoing, but the talk of martyrs among our ranks is not true,” Mustefa Bali said.
According to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman, Sunday’s attack “started with a car bomb driven by a suicide attacker against an SDF position between Hajin and Al Bahra”.
The attack allowed IS to advance towards Al Bahra from its holdout around Hajin, and push back the first lines of defence of the SDF, which is backed by the US-led coalition, the Observatory said. The monitor said 14 civilians and nine IS militants were killed on Saturday in coalition air strikes in Hajin and the nearby towns of Sousa and Al Shaafa. A coalition spokesman said those strikes targeted IS positions. “The strikes killed ISIS terrorists and destroyed three operational facilities critical to ISIS’s operations,” Sean Ryan said, using an alternative acronym for IS. — AFP