2017 can be year of diplomacy after 5-yr Syrian ‘ruthless war’ – UN envoy

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The UN envoy for Syria Jan Egeland has expressed the hope that things can change for the better in 2017 in Syria if diplomacy is adopted after a five-year ruthless war in the conflict-ravaged country.

Egeland said at a press briefing in Geneva that looking back over the past month, saw some of the most difficult challenges for humanitarian workers in Syria, according to the Secretary-General’s office.

The senior UN adviser on Syria, however, pointed out that the past month also witnessed evacuations of thousands of civilians from war-torn eastern Aleppo.

According to him, things have to change in 2017 and “it can change in 2017″.

“After five ruthless war years, we can have a year of diplomacy, of conflict resolution, and of protection of civilians, it can happen.

“And we were heartened to hear that Russia and Turkey both said that they will facilitate humanitarian access to all civilians as part of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that they function as guarantors for.

“And we will actively hold them accountable for their promise to help us,” Egeland said.

He said rhe situation in Syria continued to remain particularly dire, in 2016.

“On average, relief workers were able to reach only about 21 per cent of the needs in the war-torn country, which while being an improvement of the one per cent figure in 2015, still meant that 79 per cent of those in need could not be provided with assistance.

On the current situation in the ground, Egeland reported that “enormous dramas are unfolding as we speak”, adding one such place is Damascus.

According to the senior UN humanitarian official, about 5.5 million people in the city have been cut off from water because the springs of Wadi Barada – located just outside Damascus, that accounts for 70 per cent of the water supplies, have been broken.

He said the reason for the supply disruption is yet to be established.

“The UN has sought permission to visit Wadi Barada to look into the disruption and to explore how the supplies can be restored.

“It is, meanwhile, undertaking emergency efforts to ensure that schools, hospitals, bakeries and other essential services can get water, Egeland said.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura also expressed the “hope Security Council Resolution 2336 succeeds”.

De Mistura expressed cautious optimism, particularly in light of a recent resolution adopted by the Security Council in which the 15-member body welcomed and supported Russian and Turkish efforts to end violence and jumpstart a political process in Syria.

“Any initiative such as this one, needs to be supported, and we hope it will succeed and is definitely welcomed,” De Mistura adding that the UN would support the process, as requested by Member States.

Speaking specifically on planned political talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, he said “We are looking forward to the meeting, particularly in the context of our own meeting that will be taking place early in February here”. (NAN)

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