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UN Envoy for Syria Urges Russia to Help Stabilize Idlib

MOSCOW - The U.N.'s special envoy for Syria on Friday urged Russia to help stabilize the violence in northwestern Idlib province and support drafting the nation's new constitution.

During talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Geir Pedersen voiced hope that Russia and Turkey could help reduce tensions in Idlib.

It's a very difficult situation,'' he said. And I hope that the cooperation between Russia and Turkey will help to stabilize the situation in Idlib.''

Russia and Turkey have closely coordinated their actions in Syria, signing a de-escalation deal for Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria's eight-year civil war. That deal has recently been tested by increased fighting, raising the prospect of a government offensive and a major humanitarian crisis.

Pedersen said he would travel to Syria early next week for talks on forming a constitutional committee.

We now seem to be closer to establishing a constitutional committee,'' he said, thanking Russia for helping the effort. The constitutional committee should be a door opener to a broader political process, and I also emphasized that we need confidence-building measures.''

Pedersen said that prisoner releases could help create favorable conditions for further peace settlement efforts.

One possible confidence-building measure could be the release of substantial number of detainees and more information on missing persons,'' he said.

The conflict has obviously been going on for too long, it created deep divisions within the Syrian society and untold suffering,'' Pedersen said.

Lavrov hailed Pedersen for helping create channels of communication between the Syrian government and the opposition, adding that forming a committee to work on a new constitution would mark a major step in the political process.

Source: Voice of America

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