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Transcript of the press conference by the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi (Geneva, 5 November 2013)

5 November 2013

Transcript of press conference
by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi
Geneva, 5 November 2013


JSRS: Thank you very much. Sincere apologies for coming this late to you, but we have just finished a series of meeting that we have had today. We first had a trilateral meeting, that is, the United Nations, the Russian Federation and the United States, and then we had a meeting with the rest of the P5 and with the countries that have borders with Syria, that is Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, and the last part of this series of meetings was a meeting with representatives of the ICRC and the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations.

As you know, the trilateral meetings that we have been having in Geneva for the last few months are meant to prepare for the second conference on Syria. We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a date today - unfortunately, we are not. But we are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year, and you know that, as far as the United Nations are concerned, we are ready and indeed the Secretary-General is impatient to get this conference going, because the situation in Syria is extremely bad. The humanitarian people were telling us today that there is an average of 6,000 people every day leaving Syria to the neighbouring countries. The situation inside Syria - we were talking - I myself said several times that almost one third of the population is directly suffering from this situation as IDPs inside Syria or refugees. But the United Nations is saying now there is more than nine million people – nine million - that is almost half the population of Syria.

This situation has to be solved. In January, in Kuwait the Secretary-General will have a second pledging conference. A few months ago, at a conference in Kuwait… we had pledges for three billion dollars. I hope that donors will be as generous next January. But how long will people continue to provide Syria with three, four, five billion dollars every six months? This is not sustainable. The only solution to the humanitarian crisis is a political solution to the crisis. And, you know, in addition of what we have been saying, what the Secretary-General has been saying, for ever really, since the beginning of this crisis, is that there is no military solution to this crisis. The Government is not going to win and the opposition is not going to win on the ground. And what we can add to that statement is that the solution to the humanitarian disaster is not sustainable, and the real solution is the political solution to the problem. So, you know, the trilateral, of course, the important meeting that we had this morning, in which we again discussed the principles for the preparation for the Geneva conference, but we are not in a position to announce the date today, but we are still hoping that we will be able to have the conference by the end of the year.

We have agreed that we will meet in the trilateral format on the 25th November again. By that time, as you know, the opposition will have had a series of meetings. They are supposed to meet on the 9th, I am not sure if they will meet or not, and also on the 22nd or the 23rd to get themselves ready and hopefully move towards a formation of a credible delegation to the conference. That will be a big step forward to make the conference possible.

So, a lot of work on the preparation for the conference among the three of us, the trilateral group, discussions with the agencies, and the ICRC and the neighbours about the terrible humanitarian situation, and the commitment among all those who were present to do their very, very best move towards this conference, hopefully before the end of the year.

These are my opening remarks and we will take a couple of questions.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Mr. Ambassador, I would like to ask two questions, one in English and one in Arabic. My first question is what are the main obstacles that stopped you from reaching an agreement today on a time for Geneva II. And if you can tell us exactly whether the main players are going to be invited. We can see that they are now absent today. The main players active in the Syria crisis have been absent today. How can you find a solution in the absence of the main players on the ground, the opposition and representatives from the Government?

JSRS: On your first question, you know. We precisely... the Geneva II conference is different from Geneva I because the Syrians are going to be represented, the main players as you say, the Government and the opposition. And the opposition is… has a very difficult time, they are divided, it is not a secret to anybody, and they are facing all sorts of problems, but they are working very, very hard to get ready.: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Would you like me to repeat this in Arabic as well ? I said that the Geneva II conference is different from the Geneva I conference in that in Geneva II, Syria will be represented by two delegations, a delegation from the opposition and a delegation from the Government. It is no secret to anyone that the opposition have a lot of problems and are working seriously to overcome these problems to reach a position and to appoint a convincing delegation to represent them in Geneva, and that is what has delayed us a bit.

Q: Mr Brahimi, you obviously came into the meeting with higher expectations, because you said you thought you could announce a date. But what happened, or what differences occurred to you over the course of the day that prevented from achieving this results? Is this because of the opposition’s preconditions?

JSRS: It’s not that dramatic, you know. We have been hoping that we will get, you know, about this time to … but over the last few weeks we have being realizing that it was not possible -we have not discovered this this morning- that we were not being able to announce it. And it is, you know, the opposition is one of the problems we are facing.

Q: What is the timetable you are thinking about, what is the period you are thinking to celebrate this conference?

JSR: Celebrate?

Correspondent.: I mean, sorry, in Spanish is to have this, this conference to take place, sorry!

JSRS: That would be great, celebrate is a good word, that’s alright! You know, as I told you, we are meeting here on a trilateral on the 25th. I hope that by the 25th, you know, I hope, you know… and we are certainly telling everybody, both the Syrians and their friends, friends of the government, friends of the opposition, that the faster we go about organizing the conference the better. So we hope that by the 25th, these meetings that the opposition is going to have are going to produce some good results and we will be able to have this conference.

Q: Sir, can you tell us , were you able to narrow the positions at all in terms of extending an invitation to Iran for the wider conference?

JSRS: We haven’t yet completed the discussions concerning the countries and organizations that are going to be invited. And definitely Iran is one of the issues that need to be discussed further..

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Are the main two obstacles to the holding of Geneva II the future of the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the provision of weapons to the Free Syrian Army?

JSRS: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] I think that the agreement that was reached by Russia, the United States and the United Nations was that the conference would be held without any preconditions from any side.

Q: M. Brahimi, est-ce que le cadre défini pour la participation de l’opposition, que ce soit l’opposition pro ou contre Assad, doit être défini par la tripartite? Est-ce que vous avez discuté cela ou bien vous allez laisser cela aux opposants eux-mêmes. Ma deuxième question, juste rapidement : pour que l’Iran soit accepté, est-ce qu’il a accepté Genève I lors de votre passage à Téhéran?

JSRS: En ce qui concerne l’opposition, c’est à eux… ce que nous leur demandons, c’est de venir avec une délégation crédible. Et je crois que les différentes composantes de l’opposition sont en contact les uns avec les autres et c’est l’une des choses qui sont en train d’être discutées. En ce qui concerne l’Iran, j’ai déjà répondu à la question.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Mr. Brahimi, have you resolved the issue that is contained in the Geneva I communique? There seems to be a misunderstanding that is still ongoing. Was this resolved in your meeting this morning with the delegations of the United States and Russia?

JSRS : [Unofficial translation from Arabic] I am not sure what is this misunderstanding that you are talking about. The Geneva I communique affirms that agreement on implementing the communique will be through an understanding between the Syrian delegations, the delegation of the Government and the delegation of the opposition. There is no doubt that the task of countries that will attend the conference will be to encourage and help the parties to reach an agreement.

Thank you very much everyone and once again, sorry for keeping you so late.