DAMASCUS (AFP) – The world must confront “terrorist groups” in Syria and beyond but the war-ravaged country also requires a political solution, the UN’s new envoy on the conflict said in Damascus on Thursday.
“The terrorist groups need to be confronted and that’s clear,” Staffan de Mistura told journalists after meeting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on his first trip to Damascus since being appointed.
“But there is no contradiction… in fighting terrorism both with security measures… but also with (an) accelerated and effective, all-inclusive political process that will contribute to isolate the terrorists from the rest of the population.
“The two should go hand in hand,” he said. De Mistura’s comments come as the United States moves to form a coalition of countries to tackle the Islamic State militant group operating in Syria and Iraq.
On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said Washington would wage a “relentless” war against the group, including strikes on Syrian soil and the provision of aid to Syrian rebel groups.
De Mistura made no reference to those specific plans, but recalled the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution calling for action against groups like IS.
“There is a very important priority which has been identified by Resolution 2170, the good news that we have is that everyone is feeling the need to take some initiative regarding terrorism which has become a threat to everyone in the region and beyond,” he said.
De Mistura was appointed after the resignation of his predecessor Lakhdar Brahimi, who organised peace talks in Geneva this year that failed to bring the Syrian conflict closer to resolution.
The former Italian deputy foreign minister said he would seek to build on the efforts of Brahimi and his predecessor Kofi Annan before him, while stressing the importance of reducing violence.
“The UN will strive and continue to do so particularly now with renewed energy to assist all Syrians… and the Syrian government in order to facilitate reduction of the violence, first priority,” he said.