De Mistura shakes hands with a journalist at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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Dismissed by critics as a diplomatic dandy, hailed by allies as a creative consensus-builder, Staffan de Mistura takes the hot seat in Geneva Monday as the man in charge of forging peace in Syria.De Mistura took over the job in mid-2014 after the spectacular failure of his two predecessors, Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary general, and Lakhdar Brahimi, one of the Arab world's most accomplished diplomats. Each had quit after holding a peace conference in the Swiss city of Geneva that failed to stop the war.In contrast to their ambition, he adopted a "minimalistic" approach, removing any expectation that the U.N. could impose peace. He did not summon the warring parties to negotiate, nor order the big powers of the U.N. Security Council to end the war.While far from perfect, the agreement has already quieted the guns in Syria for the first time in five years, providing what could be the first opportunity yet for the warring parties to discuss peace.
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