EU to host Syria conference with United Nations

The European Union will host a conference on the post-conflict future of Syria with the United Nations in Brussels on April 5, foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said Monday.

The conference, following on from a similar meeting in London early last year, “will assess regional conditions and the conditions on which post-conflict assistance can be provided once a credible political transition is in place,” Mogherini said.

The EU has consistently backed UN efforts to end the bloody conflict in Syria which has cost more than 310,000 lives and displaced millions since 2011 when protests against President Bashar al-Assad descended into all-out civil war.

Assad’s future is the key question, with the various rebel groups backed by the United States and Turkey demanding that he step down in any settlement.

He insists he is going nowhere and backed by heavy Russian military support has re-established his position with the recapture of Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

At the last round of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva on Friday, Damascus and the opposition agreed a “clear agenda” to end the war, according to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

He said there had been progress and he hoped to be able to invite both sides back to Geneva later this month for a new round of talks.

The Geneva peace talks run in parallel with negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, brokered by Russia and Turkey, and which are focused on maintaining a fragile ceasefire reached in December after Assad recaptured Aleppo.

A new Astana meeting is expected to take place before the next Geneva talks.

The EU expects UN chief Antonio Guterres to attend the Brussels talks in April, along with senior officials from most of the countries that attended the original London conference in February 2016, European officials said.

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