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Syria accuses UN envoy of bias amid diplomatic peace push

August 18, 2015 GMT

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria on Tuesday accused U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura of bias and said his recent statements condemning deadly government airstrikes on a market that killed some 100 people show he lacks objectivity.

The spat coincides with the Security Council endorsement of a recently announced plan by de Mistura aimed at setting the stage for new peace talks to end the country’s long-running civil war.

It is not the first time that the Syrian government has accused de Mistura — and other U.N. envoys before him — of prejudice in the Syrian conflict.

In a statement Monday, de Mistura condemned the government air raids in the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma, one of the deadliest since Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. He called it “unacceptable under any circumstances.”

The airstrikes hit a vegetable market in the suburb, which is a stronghold of the Islam Army rebel group.

The Syrian government said Tuesday that de Mistura’s statement showed he relied only on “propaganda circulated within circles known for their hostility to Syria.”

Commenting on the Syrian government’s criticism, a spokeswoman for the U.N. secretary-general Vannina Maestracci told reporters in New York Tuesday: “We stand by the statement he issued yesterday.”

The Security Council on Monday endorsed a plan by de Mistura aimed at setting the stage for new peace talks.

The council’s unity on a Syria political statement comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to try to end the conflict, now in its fifth year, which has killed 250,000 people.

The Syrian National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group, called Tuesday for a U.N. Security Council meeting over the situation in Douma, where government airstrikes continued for a third consecutive day.

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Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut and Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.