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Transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi Geneva, 27 January 2014
27 January 2014

JSRS : Thank you again for your patience and your interest. We had another meeting in the morning with the two parties in the same room and a meeting with each party alone with me, in the afternoon. I would like to make an observation about some of the people that are talking to the media. It’s normal that the two parties talk to the media…in my opinion, too much. But I have told them this afternoon that there was need to be responsible and respect if possible the confidentiality of the discussions and if you don’t respect the confidentiality at least don’t overstate the case. If it is true that somebody said that the Government side had said horrible things about religion and that I scolded them, it’s not true. I don’t scold anybody to begin with and there wasn’t horrible things said about religions. I have asked everybody to be, you know, a bit careful with these statements.

I’m afraid there isn’t much to report. In the morning we discussed a paper presented by the Government, general principles, most of those principles are already in the Geneva Declaration and tomorrow we are going to talk about the Geneva Declaration itself and see if we can start debate.

The humanitarian discussions haven’t produced much unfortunately. I told you yesterday that there was an agreement by the Government that women and children can come out of the old city in Homs. I think they are still discussing how that should be done. I think the Government is willing to make it happen but it’s not easy because there are snipers and there are all sorts of problems. The convoy of food and non-food items and medical supplies, there is no decision yet to let them it. I am asking the two parties to consider doing something about all these areas that are surrounded by one side or the other and these people are really suffering inside. So I am still begging, asking, that we, something be done about these areas, whether these areas are under siege by the Government or by the armed groups. I am glad that there is, apparently, the will to continue these discussions. Once again, we tell you, you know, we never expected any miracle. There are no miracles here, but we will continue and see if progress can be made and when.

Q. : For the first time today you talked about transition, the political transition. I know I’m stating the obvious but on one side you have the Opposition saying there’s no way President Assad and those around him could be part of the new Syria. On the other side you have the Government saying he should stay. How on earth do you bridge this gap?

JSRS : If you have any ideas I’ll take them with great pleasure.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, there are two different visions of implementing Geneva I, one of the Opposition and the other of the Government. What is the vision of Lakhdar Brahimi of this issue? Thank you.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) This is a long story. We are trying to implement the real Geneva plan which aims to end the war and enable the Syrian people to gain their legitimate ambitions and build a new Syria. How will this happen? Well, it is not an easy thing because you know all the complications of the problems present in the country. But our aim is to end the war and build the new State in Syria.

Q. : Could you clarify something which you mentioned yesterday about the situation in Homs? You said children and women are allowed to leave but the Government had asked for a list of the male civilians. Is there a linkage? In other words, is the list of male civilians a precondition so the women and children could leave?

JSRS : It’s not a precondition to allowing the women and children out. It’s a precondition to allow men, civilian men out.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) My question is about the measures taken before the dialogue in the matter of forming the governing body. It would seem that all the previous measures that we were discussing in Geneva I and others have been abandoned, like the ceasefire and the release of detainees. Will the negotiations on forming a governing body start despite the continuation of the firing of arms and the continuation of the detention of persons and the sieges of cities, and barrels (barrel bombs). You know well that barrels are not a method of fighting but a method of killing, they do not hurt fighters or terrorists but they hurt civilians haphazardly. Will the negotiations be held with civilians continuing to be bombarded with barrels and besieged and made hungry?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) There is no agreement on either a ceasefire or at least on reducing the level of ongoing violence in Syria. There are many peace processes which start negotiating a solution without the fighting coming to a stop. This would not be the first time. But it is of course a pity and there is no doubt that one hopes, the talk about lifting the sieges on these areas and the invitation to reduce the suffering of the people at a time when we say that we are talking about ending the whole war and building the new Syria.

Q. : Thank you for taking my question. My question is Mr. Brahimi, who is going to verify all the promises that the Government is making? I mean the convoys with the aid for the people in Homs and the people that are leaving, and also the women and children, if they have to leave voluntarily? It’s not an imposition? I just wanted you to clarify that.

JSRS: Definitely, it’s voluntary. Those who don’t want to leave will not leave. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are present over there and the convoys of food and non-food items are actually, will, if that happens, be taken in by the United Nations. So we will first of course therefore know for certain if they have gone in or not, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations are there and they will see if there are any women or any children that have come out.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, as your decision is (inaudible) in these negotiations, how will you handle the manoeuvring of the Regime to the Geneva I decisions that want to derail the process of forming a transitional ruling body without the presence of Assad ?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) I do not know how to answer these loaded questions, it is very difficult to answer your question. This is like the man who is asked if he has stopped hitting his wife or if he hasn’t, what would he say?

Q. : Coming back to what you just spoke, that tomorrow the delegations will be examining the Geneva Communiqué. What are your priorities on how the discussion will begin on this issue and also, with reference to the negotiations and there is no ceasefire, are you then likely to follow the Kissinger model on the Vietnam talks?

JSRS : Or Algerian-French model in 1962. I don’t think we are following any model at all. We are doing what the situation allows, what the market can bear. Tomorrow we are going to put forward the Geneva Communiqué, of course the parties know it extremely well, and then we are going to decide with them how we’re going to proceed in discussing its many elements. One of them is of course the composition of the governing body with full executive powers, but we will definitely not start with that. It’s, you know, probably the most complicated subject.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, we have been following you for days through the conference and today, practically, after the days that have passed, and the idea of starting to talk about humanitarian issues, and that issues are sensitive, is it really possible to bring together all the parties to work in a real and positive way. But today, and if I may remind you of some of the words that you said, that there are no decisions yet on the humanitarian issues and that nothing was reached. There have been leaks to the press that you have rejected. There is severe suffering still present, and yet you are talking about the intentions still being present. Really, and after all these issues, what is the lowest ceiling of your expectations for this conference?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) There is still hope.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Why?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) My expectations for this conference are that this unfair war on the Syrian people is ended, but I know that this will not happen in a day, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or next week. It is easy to be patient. My hope is that the Syrian brothers from both sides think of their people and try to make progress as much as possible, them and the people behind them, I mean the persons present here are brothers and they are welcome but God willing what we can call those in charge from the different sides will think with us about the Syrian people.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, during your talks today with the delegations of the Government and the Opposition, the Opposition delegation refused an initiative paper presented by the Government delegation that rejected any form of foreign intervention. Is it expected and will this result in that the Opposition will again ask for foreign intervention in Syria?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) This also is a loaded question. How do you say loaded question in Arabic? These are mined questions, the negotiations, I cannot answer your question.

Q: Good afternoon Mr. Brahimi. The humanitarian issues and what you call the political negotiations are very, very closely interlinked and the parties have not been able to build these confidence measures that you have spoken for three days. How do you think that this will affect or have an impact on the next days of negotiations?

JSRS : You know, you are right. Confidence-building measures take place, usually, before negotiations start. They are supposed to prepare the ground for negotiations and create a conducive atmosphere. Unfortunately they haven’t happened before we have met, although we have been talking about them for a very, very long time. So this was another attempt to see if, you know, people who are prisoners be released, people who have been kidnapped be released, women and children and even men are fed, those wounded are looked after and receive the medicine and medical care they need. We will continue to ask for that as we go along and try to make these negotiations produce something. You know, I think we are happy, encouraged, that this conference that we have been working for since the 7th of May of last year has at last taken place. That in itself is one little step forward, but it is only one little step forward. Whatever gain we have made is reversible. So, you know, we are going to continue trying to make this work. We hoped that the parties will cooperate. We hope also that those who have influence will use their influence to help us move forward. Thank you very much.