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Transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi, Geneva, 29 January 2014

29 January 2014

(Near verbatim transcript)

JSRS : Good evening. Had a long day, with a long session in the morning and two shorter sessions in the afternoon, one with each delegation. In the morning, the two delegations were with us. In the afternoon they came one after the other. We talked about the TGB [transitional governing body], but of course it’s a very, very preliminary discussion. And, more generally, of what each side expects, and so on. We also tried to see what is happening over the humanitarian issues in particular about Homs, where negotiations between the United Nations and the Syrian authorities are still ongoing. You know, we realize every day that the two parties seem to be willing to stay on and to talk, but the gap between them is quite large. We still expect to finish this first session, this first round, on Friday, and on Friday we’ll agree on the exact date when we will resume, most probably after about one week. So, wish us luck and ask two or three questions.

Q. : Can you tell us Sir, please, what you hope to achieve in terms of, before your break on Friday? What would be a meaningful result by Friday? And also what you will be sending the delegations home to consult and think about before they come back in a week or two?

JSRS : You know to be blunt, I do not expect that we will achieve anything substantive. I am very happy that we are still talking, that the ice is breaking slowly, but it is breaking, and that we will separate on Friday and discuss what we will do when we resume. And I hope that the second session will be more structured and hopefully more productive than the first session. I did not expect, sorry, I’m not disappointed, because I did not expect any result this first time. This is exactly what I thought we would do, is just talk to one another and also agree that we will continue talking to one another. So this is what we have achieved.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) There is little left for the discussions between the two delegations. Do you expect that the discussions and their results, if they have results, will be commensurate to the size of the crisis that Syria is going through? Thank you.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) For sure, the results that will be achieved are not commensurate to the level of the crisis and the expectations of the Syrian people. But these people have not met nor sat together once in the past three years so do not expect... I think that the two did not expect that there would be a magic wand to enable them. We talked of walking the 1,000 miles - if we take the first step, that will be very good.

Q. : Mr. Brahimi, you mentioned that the gap between the two delegations is big and we know that today we had technical consultations here between the Russians and the Americans. At which measure do you think it’s possible to use these external powers and maybe to put the level higher of their influence. Thank you.

JSRS : I am in touch with the Russians, with the Americans and with others, and I hope that they will use their influence with the party; no, I’m sure they are, I’m sure that they will use them better in the future.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, I want to ask you a question about the content of the American and Russian pressures that the news agencies carried extensively today. What was in them? Another thing: however preliminary the talks in today’s meeting were concerning the transitional rule, what did the Syrian Government side accept and what did it reject? There is no smoke without fire.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Well, excuse me but I am not going to negotiate with you, it is enough that I am negotiating with the Syrians. As for the American and Russian support, well, the Americans have good relations with the Opposition and the Russians have good relations with the Government. Russia and the United States now have good relations together. They talk together, and with me, and they use their ability to convince, which is better than my ability, to make the discussions in Room XVI easier.

Q. : Mr. Brahimi, given that the differences between the parties in the sense of how they would like to prioritize, to discuss in what order they would like to discuss the points of Geneva Communiqué, don’t you think that the format of having working groups for the next round could be useful?

JSRS: Thank you for your suggestion, we’ll keep it in mind.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Sir, you said that you don’t expect to achieve much. How neutral are the United Nations and the international interlocutors in finding a common ground between the two sides? Please do not say this is a loaded question.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) It is a loaded question. But do you have doubt that we are not completely neutral? We are with the Syrian people heart and soul 100 per cent. We are trying, we call on the Syrian parties to come closer together and we look at the Syrian people with one view.

Thank you. Thank you very much.