Syria’s opposition must accept that they have not won the six-and-a-half year war against President Bashar Al Assad, UN peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday.
De Mistura suggested the war was almost over because many countries had got involved principally to defeat Daish in Syria, and a national ceasefire should follow soon after.
The two main Daish forces — in the city of Raqa and around the city of Deir Al Zor — were facing imminent defeat, which would lead to “the moment of truth”, he said.
“The fact is that Deir Al Zor is almost liberated, in fact it is as far as we are concerned liberated, it’s a matter now of a few hours.”
Raqa’s fall would follow within days or weeks, leading to the time to negotiate.
“The issue is: is the government, after the liberation of Deir Al Zor and Raqa, ready and prepared to genuinely negotiate and not simply announce victory, which we all know, and they know too, cannot be annnouced because it won’t be sustainable without a political process?
“Will the opposition be able to be unified and realistic enough to realise they did not win the war?”
Asked if he was implying that Assad had won, he said: “I am not the one to write the history of this conflict … but at the current moment I don’t think anyone can actually claim to have won the war.”
Separately, UN war crimes investigators said on Wednesday that the Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during Syria’s civil war, including in April’s deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
A government warplane dropped sarin on the town in Idlib province, killing more than 80 civilians, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said, in the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into that chemical weapon attack.
The panel also said US air strikes on a mosque in Al Jina in rural Aleppo in March that killed 38 people, including children, failed to take precautions in violation of international law, but did not constitute a war crime.
The weapons used on Khan Sheikhoun were previously identified as containing sarin, an odourless nerve agent. But that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), did not say who was responsible.
“Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children,” the UN report said, declaring the attack a war crime.
Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro said: “Not having access did not prevent us from establishing facts or reasonable grounds to believe what happened during the attack and establishing who is responsible.”