United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a press conference at UN office in Geneva on October 10, 2014
United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a press conference at UN office in Geneva on October 10, 2014 © Fabrice Coffrini - AFP
United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a press conference at UN office in Geneva on October 10, 2014
AFP
Last updated: October 12, 2014

Talks with new UN Syria envoy set for October 21, says Russia

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A new UN Syria envoy is expected to arrive for talks in Russia on October 21, the foreign ministry in Moscow said on Saturday.

Staffan de Mistura "will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov", deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.

De Mistura was appointed to the Syria job in July, after his predecessor, Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, resigned in May following the failure of peace talks.

The Syrian conflict has acquired a new dimension with the advance of Islamic State jihadists battling to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.

In August, the United States launched an air campaign in Iraq -- extended into Syria in September -- to halt the advance of the jihadists.

Despite the bombing raids, the IS jihadists have continued to gain ground in both countries, including around the key town of Kobane near the Turkish border.

Moscow has said that any plan to set up a buffer zone in Syria, as Turkey has urged, would need to be approved by the United Nations.

Gatilov complained that Washington had not yet responded to Russia's proposal to restart talks on the Syrian crisis, expressing hope that the UN envoy's visit would give a fresh impetus to the negotiations.

"We consider his arrival to be important because by that time he will have visited all main capitals of the region (the Middle East) and meet with many political figures," Gatilov said.

"We expect him to bring fresh ideas as a result of his contacts in the region and hope that this will facilitate the political negotiating process which unfortunately has ground to a halt over the past few months," he added.

More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and it remains unclear if there is much political will for a new effort to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.

Moscow has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime throughout the country's civil war and has repeatedly thwarted UN action against him.

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