Negotiations to end the war in Syria must speed up, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told Reuters on Wednesday, on the sixth anniversary of the start of the conflict.
So far talks to end the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands, driven 5 million into neighboring countries and left 13.5 million in urgent need of humanitarian aid, have gone almost nowhere.
"It’s becoming one of the longest and most cruel wars of recent years," de Mistura said. "That’s why there is a need for an acceleration of any type of negotiations - in Astana, in Geneva, in New York, wherever."
De Mistura is trying to mediate a political agreement between Syria's warring sides, and after a procedural round of talks in Geneva ended on March 3, he plans to bring the negotiators back for in-depth discussions on March 23.
Complementary talks on Syria's shaky ceasefire and confidence-building measures such as prisoner releases are now nearing the end of a third round in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. They have made no real progress, either.
De Mistura has denied that the UN talks in Geneva are hostage to progress in Astana. He considers them complementary: the ceasefire needs to take hold to support the political process, and the political process needs to move forward to make the ceasefire last.
UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said the warring sides and their backers needed to "regain their sense of humanity".
"We join Syrians in hoping that 2017 will be the year the carnage finally ends," O'Brien said in a statement to mark the anniversary.