SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:Pedersen, who took up his post in January, made the proposal during his first appearance before the UN Security Council, which remains deeply divided over the way forward in Syria.

“There is a shared sense that battlefield developments might be winding down,” Pedersen told the council. “Nevertheless, the conflict is far from over.”

“If we are to see how issues can be unblocked and how to help the parties move in a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process, a common forum where key states engage seriously on those issues may be needed,” he said.

Russia, a veto-wielding council power whose backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been a decisive factor in the war, has taken a lead role in diplomatic efforts through the Astana group with Iran and Turkey.

UN diplomacy on Syria has been largely sidelined by the Astana group, while the United States has shifted its attention away from the Syria conflict.

President Donald Trump has announced that he is pulling out the bulk of US forces sent to battle Islamic State militants.

Pedersen noted that five international armies operate across Syria’s land and air space, creating daily risks for escalation and pledged to focus on improving international dialogue and cooperation.

Addressing the council, Russia appeared to welcome the proposal, even if it questioned the West’s motives in Syria.