UN special envoy arrives in Syria for new round of talks

BEIRUT, Weedah Hamzah (dpa) - The UN special envoy for Syria arrived in Damascus Tuesday for talks with senior Syrian officials regarding the formation of a constitutional committee and ways to end the violence in the war-torn country.
"Pleased to be back in Damascus. Hopeful we can move the political process forward with the constitutional committee as a door opener," Geir Pedersen wrote on Twitter.

The Norwegian diplomat is on his fourth visit to the Syrian capital since he took up the post in January.
The committee is to be made of 150 members, with 50 government delegates, 50 opposition members and the rest chosen by the UN envoy.
Pedersen is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with senior officials at the Syrian foreign ministry.
The UN envoy's visit comes as Syrian government forces along with their Russian allies are waging a war on the last rebel stronghold in Idlib, in north-west Syria.
Clashes between militants and government troops continued on Tuesday in Syria's north-west Latakia province and north-west Hama leaving 44 soldiers and 27 insurgents dead in less than 24 hours, a monitoring group reported.
The jihadist groups, which include members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, attacked Syrian troops and their allies in a mountainous area in the north-east part of Latakia, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Latakia is a main stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and home to the biggest Russian airbase in the country.
The Observatory said the rebels also managed to capture three members of a pro-government militia.
Meanwhile, government warplanes carried out airstrikes on a refugee camp near the village of Deir Sharki, in the countryside of Idlib, killing at least three civilians. The strikes also injured several people, who are currently in a critical condition.
Idlib, in north-western Syria, has been under attack by government strikes for several months.
Since late April, the onslaught on the rebel enclave has claimed at least 587 civilian lives, including 149 children, and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the Observatory.
In September, Russia, a key ally of Damascus, and Turkey, which supports some rebel groups in Syria, reached a deal to establish a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, a move that prevented a major government offensive there.
The buffer zone includes parts of the neighbouring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.

Tuesday, July 9th 2019
Weedah Hamzah (dpa)

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