UN Syria envoy to visit Damascus, warn on barrel bombs

GENEVA - UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura plans to meet senior Syrian government officials in Damascus in his effort to find common ground among the parties with an interest in ending Syria's civil war, his office said on Sunday.
De Mistura began the talks last month saying he expected to meet 40 or more delegations for one-on-one discussions in Geneva, including Syrian officials, opposition and civil society, and representatives of governments in the region and with influence in the conflict.
"During his visit, Mr. de Mistura intends to raise with the Syrian government the issue of protection of civilians, underlining once again the unacceptable use of barrel bombs and the incontestable duty of any government, in all circumstances, to protect its civilians," his office said in a statement.
It did not say if De Mistura would meet President Bashar Assad, nor did it specify exact travel dates, which are always kept confidential for security reasons.
Diplomats said that by summoning people to Geneva, De Mistura would be in control of the process and the talks would be on neutral ground. However, the main Syrian political opposition group refused to come to meet him, inviting him instead to meet them in Istanbul.