UN mediator demands progress at Syrian talks

BEIRUT/GENEVA: Negotiators of the Syrian government and opposition need to start drafting a new constitution as soon as possible, UN envoy Geir Pedersen said ahead of a new round of talks in Geneva next week.
“There needs to be more urgency to delivering progress in this process,” the Syria envoy told a press conference on Friday.
The UN-brokered constitutional talks are meant to pave the way for a settlement of the Syrian civil war that broke out in March 2011.
Fifteen delegates from both sides are scheduled to arrive in the Swiss city on Saturday to start talks on Monday.
Four previous rounds have not brought any substantial progress.
“The political process so far is not delivering real changes in Syrian’s lives nor a real vision for the future,” Pedersen said.
The situation is dire for the more than 6 million people who are displaced within Syria.
Twelve people have been murdered at the overcrowded Al Hol refugee camp in north-eastern Syria since the beginning of the year, according to United Nations figures.
Imran Riza, the UN’s resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for Syria, and Muhannad Hadi, regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, expressed concerns over what they called “deteriorating security conditions” at Al Hol.
From January 1 to 16, “the UN received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents, including one female Iraqi refugee. Another person was critically injured in a violent attack,” the UN officials said in a statement on Thursday.
Circumstances of the reported murders were not clear.
Al Hol camp is located in a region controlled by Syria’s Kurds. It is the largest refugee camp in the civil war-torn country, with more than 60,000 people, according to UN figures.
More than 80 per cent of its inhabitants are women and children. Aid agencies have long complained of inhumane conditions in the overcrowded camp.
“The recent rise in violence among the camp population not only represents a tragic loss of life, it also jeopardises the ability for the UN and humanitarian partners to continue to safely deliver critical humanitarian assistance and services to residents,” the statement said.
Thousands of former supporters of the IS militia, including German nationals, are also kept at Al Hol.
The UN reported last year that several children had died there.
The reasons varied from complications as a result of malnutrition, diarrhoea or internal bleeding.
Meanwhile, refugee camps in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib have suffered severe damage due to heavy rains earlier this week, Salem Abdan, the head of the provincial Health Directorate, said.
Videos and pictures from Idlib showed flooded tents and camps, while children stood knee-high in water.
According to the Ihsan Relief and Development Group, more than 200 camps and an estimated 175,000 people have been affected by the bad weather.
Idlib is the last rebel stronghold in Syria. Syrian government forces supported by Russia began an offensive in the region in 2019, prompting concerns over civilians’ safety there.
Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al Assad, while Turkey has been supporting opposition forces since a pro-democracy uprising started against Assad in 2011. — dpa