UN envoy says next round of Syrian talks to start March 23

The United Nations special envoy for Syria says he intends to bring the government and opposition back to Geneva for a fifth round of talks on March 23 to pursue agreement on a transition to end the six-year war.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors Wednesday that the talks will focus on the issues both sides agreed to in the last round — governance, a new constitution, elections and counter-terrorism.

He appealed to participants at an upcoming meeting in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, to address the challenges of the cease-fire in Syria. Those talks are organized by the three guarantors of the cease-fire — Russia, Iran and Turkey.

De Mistura warns that without a strong cease-fire, the talks in Geneva "will be fragile."