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Transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi, Geneva, 30 January 2014

30 January 2014

(Near verbatim transcript)

JSRS : Good afternoon everyone. Had another fairly long meeting this morning, where we discussed a very sensitive and important subject that is the security situation in Syria and terrorism. I think a lot has been said about it. There is of course agreement that terrorism does exist and it’s a very, very serious problem inside Syria, but perhaps not yet an agreement on how to deal with it, and also, I think it is evident to everyone that to tackle seriously the issue of security is indispensable if we want to reach a solution to the crisis and a return of peace and security, in Syria. We had tense moments and also rather promising moments. I am sure somebody must have told you already that the Opposition suggested a minute of silence for all the dead in Syria irrelevant of to which camp they belong and the Government delegation immediately agreed and we had that minute of silence. Tomorrow morning will be our last session. I hope that we will try a little bit to draw some lessons about what we did and see if we can organize ourselves better for the next session. I think that’s enough for a beginning.

Q. : I want to ask you about Homs. Yesterday you said that negotiations are going on between the United Nations and the Syrian authorities. Is the problem the Syrian authorities? Where is the problem? Why is the aid not getting in? And are you disappointed that so far this deal from Sunday has not been realized and if this deal about Homs doesn’t become reality, what effect will that have on your future talks?

JSRS : Of course I am disappointed. Very, very disappointed, because the situation in Homs is bad and has been bad for months, years even. That is the first place very bad fighting and destruction has taken place. It is there that a church built in the year 57 has been damaged or destroyed. It is there that a mosque that has been built also at the very beginning of Islam has been also damaged or destroyed. So of course one is extremely sad that these problems exist. The negotiations are still ongoing. You know now, the thing is what goes first? Do you get the supplies, aid, in, and then allow people to come out? Or, get people out first and then see what you do about aid getting in. You know, this is unfortunately a civil war, or a situation of civil war. There, even in the refugee camp in Damascus, Yarmouk, there has been also negotiations, endless negotiations for several days. Today, yes today, midday about one o’clock Damascus time, some aid has gone in, about 600 - I don’t know how they call it - baskets, food parcels or baskets. About 600 have gone in and as you know this is a basket or parcel that contains I think 61Kg of all sorts of things that are supposed to be enough for one month for a family of five. So, a partial solution in Yarmouk, but no solution yet in Homs.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) What is not known is that Al-Ikhbariya TV [Syrian news] was subjected to a terrorist attack. It was completely destroyed in an explosion and the terrorism led to seven of its staff being killed. My question, Mr. Brahimi, is, for you, what comes first? Ending the terrorism and bloodshed in Syria or distributing political posts? Thank you.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) That’s a loaded question…Let’s take another question.

Q.: On a entendu, via la presse arabe, dire que des négociations parallèles auraient eu lieu - avaient lieu – des discussions entre Iraniens, Américains, Russes et toutes les factions syriennes, hier, avant hier, à Berne. Est-ce que vous avez été, est-ce que vous êtes, tenu au courant de telles négociations? Est-ce que vous savez des choses?

JSRS : Vous savez, ce serait magnifique, comme ça, je peux rentrer chez moi. Mais je crois que je peux vous dire que malheureusement, ça n'a aucun fondement.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, the United States and Russia said yesterday that they intend to put more pressure on the two sides to give concessions. Have you felt that there was any softening in the positions of the two sides today? Also, are you intending to invite Syrian opposition parties to the next round?

JSRS: (unofficial translation from Arabic) Well, we haven’t noticed any major change, to be honest, in the two sides’ positions. As for invitations to other parties, the United Nations does not invite other parties. From the beginning, the opposition parties should have invited each other to establish a delegation that was convincing, as we said. If the opposition, I mean the various currents in the opposition, were to join the delegation that, hopefully, will come back again, then that would be something we would welcome?

Q. : Mr. Brahimi, could you tell us what is planned tomorrow in terms of a maybe a common declaration or will you deliver a report, and will you meet us again?

JSRS : If you want me, I come back, if you don’t I won’t. You know I am not sure how it will, but we will certainly be drawing some lessons and if you want me to come I’ll come back at the end of the morning you know around one or one thirty, or something. You know, I don’t want to deprive you of your lunch, but you know, we’ll do it when we can.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Mr. Brahimi, if the opposition gives a list of the detainees in the prisons of the regime and if the regime does not commit to releasing the prisoners, what will be the measures taken?

JSRS: (no audible answer- onto next question)

Q.: Could I ask again, are you intending to issue some kind of communiqué tomorrow and could I respectfully suggest that if you do, that you put out a printed version through the United Nations and secondly, that you do it in good time? It’s no good issuing a communiqué in Geneva at 6 o’clock on a Friday evening because the radios shut down and so on.

JSRS: Thank you very much. I am not sure whether we will have, we will have some concluding remarks. Under what form I don’t know.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic). Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, you have made a lot of efforts over the past week. You talked about confidence-building between the two sides, an attempt on your part to build confidence. I mean, everyone in Syria is asking why the world hasn’t taken the initiative of encouraging the two sides to build confidence, like, for example, by lifting the sanctions imposed outside of the United Nations on the Syrian people, like having States comply with a whole arsenal of Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) What would you like me to say?

Q.: (unofficial translation from Arabic) A transparent comment please.

JSRS: (unofficial translation from Arabic) Everything that I say is transparent. Everything that I tell you is transparent. And your question is also transparent. I have requested from the European Union a few months ago already that they review the sanctions that are directly harming the Syrian people. This request has been submitted by me more than a few months ago.

Q. : With reference to going forward, we’ve been hearing from both sides talking to the reporters that there are wide gaps on how to approach the agenda for the Geneva Communiqué talks. If this gap is not narrowed and both sides are jumping around the text, will you at some point impose your own text on how to proceed, in other words a nuclear option?

JSRS : I don’t know what happens in the nuclear option, but you know, this is really the beginning of our process. I think it was necessary, at least I thought so, to let the two parties really express themselves sometimes in very, very strong terms about their feelings, their hopes, their fears. I hope that in the next session, when we come back, we will be able to have a more structured discussion. So you know, we will keep in touch also during this period of, when everybody goes back home. So you know, all I can tell you is that I hope that when we all come back, we will have a more structured discussion. Thank you very much indeed. See you tomorrow, maybe.


For use of the information media; not an official record