The UN special envoy for Syria has appealed to the US and Russia to quickly intensify their efforts in easing the crisis, amid a rapid erosion of cooperation between the two key players in the conflict. Staffan de Mistura said the two-month-old ceasefire in Syria is "barely alive".
Expressing deep concern over increasing violence in Syria despite the existence of the truce, de Mistura said it is time for Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin to intervene "at the highest level" to salvage the situation.
The UN mediator was speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council. He said: "Hence my appeal for a US-Russian urgent initiative at the highest level, because the legacy of both President Obama and President Putin is linked to the success of what has been a unique initiative which started very well. It needs to end very well."
His remarks have come at a time Washington and Moscow are increasingly becoming wary of each other and finger-pointing has become common. While mocking Obama's recent decision to send 250 Special Operations troops to Syria, Russia said Washington is attempting to "appease" its regional allies rather than solving the crisis.
The US-Russia brokered truce, which was implemented in February 2016, is also on the verge of a collapse. De Mistura stressed that the ceasefire must be "revitalised" before the third round of Syria peace talks resume in May. Despite several setbacks, he also expressed hopes the talks would go on.
"How can you have substantial talks when you have only news about bombing and shelling? It's something that even I find it difficult, can you imagine the Syrians?" said the top diplomat, who did not specify any date for the talks. Only a week ago, the main Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) withdrew from the discussions citing continuing violence and failure to deliver humanitarian aid supplies.
When asked about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's future, de Mistura said: "We didn't get into names of people ... but actually how to change the current governance. And I must say that the concept of a new government and a political transition with a new constitution is quite a lot already in terms of preparing of what could be the next steps."