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16.02.01 - Transcript of the Press Stakeout of the Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura

1 February 2016

SdM: Good evening, you probably heard, and I am sure you did, the comments made by the spokesperson for the HNC. We had a two-hours meeting with the HNC. As far as we are concerned their arrival to the Palais des Nations and initiating the discussion with us is the official beginning of the Geneva talks.

Of course we do respect very much and we heard very clearly their very clear position. They feel, and they told you, that there is a priority from their point of you and probably you must have heard it , of having successful talks, Intra-Syrian talks in order to reach what has been communicated in the Geneva Communiqué and the resolution 2254.

At the same time they are insisting, and they are not the only ones, that the Syrian people, while we are having a Syrian talks on the future of the political solution, they deserve to hear and see facts on the ground, in reduction of the violence, in the fact of the detainees, in the fact of the besieged areas.

We feel that they have a very strong point, because this is the voice of the Syrian people asking for that. When I meet the Syrian people they tell me don't just have a conference, have also something that we can see and touch while you are meeting in Geneva.

We are going to meet tomorrow morning with the government. And I am planning to invite again tomorrow afternoon the HNC in order to go deeper into the issues they raised and their own concerns. Let me simply say one thing. There was in Vienna a very special momentum but there were also some indications that gave us, me and especially the Secretary-General the feeling that this exercise of Geneva Intra-Syrian talks is going to be different from the previous ones, one because we are in 2016, two because the people have been suffering enough and three that they need to see something concrete apart from long painful difficult negotiation.

And there was one point that came out in Vienna and I will like to indicate it clearly, there was a message in the Vienna meetings, that when the Geneva talks will actually start, in parallel there should be a serious discussion about a ceasefire. That is not something that I can discuss, this is something to be discussed at a level of the ISSG, those countries involved in saying that. So here comes the challenge, we are starting officially the Geneva talks we are listening with attention to the concerns of the HNC and we are going tomorrow to discuss and listen to the concerns of the government. The discussions are starting but meanwhile the challenge now is let’s also have the capacity of discussing this different levels, time to discuss about a ceasefire.

Tomorrow we will have another day, we will go deeper and following that I will be able to update you. Meanwhile, the talks have started.

Q. Syrian News: You discussed guarantees requested by the Syrians, and they do not just need negotiations but facts on the ground, what is your role to prove to the Syrians that these talks are effective in lifting the European sanction imposed on the Syrian people?

SdM: Well, that is exactly why we need these talks which are taking place among Syrians but in fact we all know that the whole international community is connected to it. There are the Security Council resolution and there is the ISSG, which I am expecting the sponsors of it to actually be convened very soon in order to make sure that what we are doing here has the international support and not simply leaving the Syrians alone in it.

Q. Egypt News Agency: Mr de Mistura, after what you have said are you going to inform the Security Council to ask them to start discussing the ceasefire in Syria?

SdeM: Thank you, that is a very pertinent question. What I’m simply saying is reminding the ISSG members of what they actually indicated that when the actual talks would start they themselves will start helping in ensuring that there would be a discussion about an overall ceasefire in the Syrian conflict. If that takes place that would be the strongest message for all Syrian people wherever they are about changes because ceasefire, that affects the areas that have been besieged; affects accessibility for the food and so on.

Q. NYT: What are your immediate short-term objectives in these first round of talks and specifically can you say if you’ve received a list of women and children who are detained and whether there’s any possibility of making some progress on that?

SdeM: First of all, the first immediate objective is to make sure that the talks continue and that everyone is on board. It’s crucial that no one should be feeling excluded and that everyone should be concretely, constructively but also effectively be part of it. As you know very much, the tendency is when people disagree they then leave the room. We need everyone to continue to be in the room in order to make sure that we have concrete discussions. Second, you had a second point, which is a very important one. I’ve not yet received that list. I asked for it and I want it because I think that a list of the names, particularly of women and children detained should be the first among the signals that in fact there is something different happening. Once I get it I will certainly use it in our discussions regarding signals to the Syrian people.

Q. Reuters: Could I ask you how much progress do you think you can make in the near term on the humanitarian issues – specifically on the three things that the opposition are asking for? And when you said no one is excluded, I have to ask: what about the Kurds?

SdeM: Regarding the expectations on the humanitarian side, that is exactly what would be the subject not only between us and the different groups which we are going to meet but also frankly what is going to be the actual involvement and pressure and commitment by those countries who have an influence on it. What we are doing is we are hearing the voice of the Syrian people: we are hearing it and we are sharing it. The Syrian people want everyone who has got a capacity or influence in this conflict to actually see that during the talks, during the talks there is incremental improvement in order to believe that these talks are not just about talks but about facts.

Q. Al Arabiya: do you expect this round to continue until the 11 February or beyond this date in the presence of the two delegations?

A: I can’t tell you anything because the period of the talks depends on the capacity and the willingness of the sides to be engaged. It is certainly my intention that these talks go deeper and more deeper into the real discussions. I do see a willingness by everyone to want to go into those discussions. If by the 11th we will have achieved, as I hope something, or if we have not achieved something that will be something that I will certainly raise with the International Support Group which apparently is being planned for that, and then with the Security Council: they all need to be engaged and accountable together with us in making sure that these are not just another Geneva talks.

Q. Syrian TV: Mr de Mistura, I really need to hear something about that from you: when the Opposition say that they are proud that Mohamed Alloush one of them. Mohamed Alloush and I think everyone here see the photos: they put the woman in cages, are you accept that? What can we say to the Syrian people, they see these photos?

SdeM: Listen, at this stage, I’m a mediator (not) a negotiator, a mediator. I’m not discussing the people I’m seeing in front of me. What I’m discussing is what they will tell me and whether they will deliver something for the Syrian people. That’s why I’ve not been discussing who is representing the Government or who is representing the Opposition on this.

Q. Mayadeen TV : Est-ce que vous avez vraiment commencé les négociations sans préconditions ? Est-ce qu’il y a encore des conditions chez l’Opposition ? Quel est le rôle attendu de la part de la Russie et des Etats-Unis qui sont attendus aujourd’hui afin d’exercer une pression pour continuer ces négociations ?

SdeM : Comme vous savez très bien, la ligne que le Conseil de Sécurité devrait indiquer est de ne pas y avoir de préconditions préalables pour cette discussion. Ca n’empêche pas qu’il y a des préoccupations très sérieuses, qu’on ne peut pas ignorer, et l’opposition a indiqué aujourd’hui encore comment ces préoccupations doivent avoir une réponse a leurs yeux vis-à-vis des Syriens. On ne les contredît pas, les Syriens ont besoin d’une réponse.

Ayant dit ça, les négociations, les discussions ont commencé aujourd’hui, à 5h de l’après-midi, tandis que les deux côtés principaux ont déjà commencé à parler avec nous, on sait que ça va être des négociations compliquées et difficiles, mais ça a commencé.

Sur la questions de l’Amérique et de la Russie, la réponse est que ils sont les deux « co-sponsors » du Vienna groupe ISSG, ils sont engagés et j’ai aucune raison pour ne pas penser que actuellement ils travaillent pour que cette réunion « means success. »

1 February 2016