De Mistura says Syrian sides still wide apart

U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a news conference after a meeting with a delegation of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during Syria peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said on Thursday that the distance between the Syrian government and opposition was “large” but that they agreed on the need to maintain territorial integrity of the country and rejected a federal system.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva that the situation was “surprisingly calm” in the past three days of the nearly three-week cessation of hostilities, but added: “This is not yet a trend, let’s be frank. We need to be vigilant because things can change very quickly.”

De Mistura said he had productive and substantive discussions with the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and that the paper it presented on a political transition was detailed.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by