UN envoy De Mistura: Syria partition ‘catastrophe’, fears return of ISIS

Staffan de Mistura speaks during the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in Sochi, Russia, on January 30, 2018.

:: Syria is heading for a catastrophic partition and could see the return of ISIS if there is no inclusive peace settlement, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Monday.

“The truth is that a soft, long-term partition of Syria, which (is) the one that we are witnessing at the moment, in different areas of control, will be a catastrophe, not only for Syria but for the whole region,” he told an audience at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.

“Without an inclusive political process, including those who are excluded, particularly the majority, the Sunnis, ISIS will come back,” he said. De Mistura, holding up a map of Syria with different colors for territory held by different parties, said: “This is fragmentation, this is in fact a country which has areas under the influence of other countries.”

“This is not sustainable, he added. “I believe at end of day Syria has to remain unified.” He said he believed neither the European Union nor the World Bank would help fund the estimated $352 billion cost of rebuilding Syria unless there was a political process with a new constitution, elections under UN supervision and power-sharing.

Pyrrhic victory

Without that any military victory would be a pyrrhic victory, he said. No country actually wanted to see Syria break up, and Russia and the United States had a common interest in seeing Islamic State defeated and were talking to each other, which was positive, de Mistura said.

An agreement between those two countries to sit down and talk would have an immediate impact across the region. But he saw more potential for creative diplomacy between the United States and Russia, he said.

But he saw no chance of “diplomacy backed by force”, a formula used to end the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

“I think there is no willingness by any country to get involved militarily inside Syria in a pro-active way, except Russia which is there to defend the government, and others there for other reasons but not necessarily to find a solution.”

A general view shows explosions lighting the sky following regime air strikes on Zamalka, in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on March 12, 2018.

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