Swiss foreign minister meets UN special envoy to discuss Syria

Syrian children who fled the conflict areas in north-eastern Syria arrive with their families at Bardarash refugee camp, south of Duhok in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on October 21 2019. Keystone / Gailan Haji

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has called for a de-escalation in the violence in Syria and a political solution to resolve the nine-year-old conflict, following talks with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. 

This content was published on October 22, 2019 - 11:32

The Swiss minister met Pedersen in the Swiss capital, Bern, on Monday to discuss the  violence in north-eastern Syria and the upcoming first meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva on October 30.

Both expressed their concern, in particular for civilians, caught up by the violence, the ministry said in a statementExternal link

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump abruptly decided to pull 1,000 US troops from northeast Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to move in on Kurdish-controlled territory. 

Trump's decision allowed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to launch an offensive into the region aimed at creating a 20 mile (32 km) "safe zone" clear of the Kurdish YPG militia. The Kurdish fighters had been Washington's main ally in the region but the Turkish government regards them as a terrorist group.

The Kurds pivoted quickly, allying themselves with Syria to try to hold off the Turkish onslaught.

A five-day US-brokered pause in Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria is due to expire on Tuesday evening.

Cassis described the events in north-eastern Syria as a “violation of international law”.

“We hope that the latest ceasefire will be respected and taken as an opportunity to negotiate a de-escalation and political solution," said the minister. 

Putin-Erdogan meeting

Meanwhile, Erdogan is making an official visit to Moscow on Tuesday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. They are expected to discuss the YPG withdrawal from the rest of the border and how the Syrian constitutional committee can make concrete progress.

Pedersen said the establishment of a Syrian constitutional committee announced by UN Secretary General Guterres at the UN General Assembly last month could be a “door opener” to a political solution.

The constitutional committee will be composed of 150 Syrian delegates and is set to hold its first meeting in the western Swiss city next week. It is tasked with drafting a new constitution for Syria. As host state, Switzerland has promised to lend it its full support to the committee's work and to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

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