Russia's Putin must 'win the peace' in Syria: UN
Russian President Vladimir Putin must now push the Syrian government to accept a peace deal after a series of military victories, Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, told Swiss broadcaster RTS on Wednesday.
Putin can "convince the government that there is no time to lose," De Mistura said, adding that failing to do so risks the "fragmentation of Syria."
Read more: And the winner is: Assad
"You can think you win territory militarily but you have to win the peace," said De Mistura. "And to win the peace, you have to have the courage to push the government to accept that there has to be a new constitution and new elections, through the United Nations."
Putin on Monday made a surprise visit to Hmeymim airbase in Syria, where he announced the partial withdrawal of Russian troops in what was hailed by Russian media as the president's "victory speech."
After routing "the most combat-capable grouping of international terrorists," it was time for Russia's soldiers to return home, Putin said. However, he warned that "if terrorists again raise their head, we will deliver such strikes on them as they have never seen."
Putin's announcement came days after the defense ministry announced it had "accomplished" its mission of defeating terror groups operating in Syria, deemed its principle reason for engaging in the conflict.
Elusive peace deal
Given the latest military victories against the "Islamic State" militant group as well as rebel groups fighting to overthrow the government, the UN has called for peace negotiations to move forward toward a political solution to the conflict.
However, Syria's chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari earlier this month threatened to walk out on UN-mediated talks in Geneva, saying the opposition's "preconditions are unrealistic."
More than 300,000 people have been killed since 2011, when government forces launched a brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.
Since then, the civil war has transformed into a multi-pronged conflict involving global powers, neighboring countries and non-state actors, including the US, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
ls/se (Reuters, AFP)