New round of Syria talks to begin in November


US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pose for the picture with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura before their meeting at the US Mission to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland 26 October 2017.

UNITED NATIONS - A new round of United Nations-led talks aimed at ending Syria&39;s six-year war will take place in Geneva from 28 November, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Thursday.

The talks will follow up on a meeting next week in the Kazakh capital of Astana between Russia, Iran and Turkey that is also aimed at achieving a settlement.

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De Mistura told the UN Security Council that with the defeat of the Islamic State in their strongholds of Raqa and Deir Ezzor, the Syrian peace process had reached a "moment of truth."

"We need to get the parties into real negotiations," the envoy said.

Seven rounds of talks have achieved only incremental progress toward a political deal, with negotiations deadlocked over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The opposition is demanding that any settlement provides for a transition of power to end Assad&39;s rule but as government forces make gains on the battleground, there is little likelihood of a breakthrough on that issue.

The Geneva talks - the eight round convened by the United Nations - must focus on steps toward drafting a new constitution and holding UN-supervised elections in Syria, De Mistura said.

More than 330,000 people have died and millions have been driven from their homes in the conflict in Syria.