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Near Verbatim Transcript Press stake-out by UN Special Envoy Mr. Staffan de Mistura following the Ministerial meeting on Syria

22 September 2016

New York, 22 September 2016

Let me start by saying that it was a long, painful and disappointing meeting. We were hoping and we are still hoping, of course, that this meeting could have confirmed the fact that the cessation of hostilities was and is something that can be shown as a concrete result for the Syrian people. We did not get that. What we did get is an intense discussion where there was not yet a concrete solution. The bad news is that Syrian people are still waiting to have a cessation of hostilities. The good news – if you want to hear it – is that both Russia and America agreed to continue intensely to work on a possible restoration of it.  Now, let me make a point. I was there. On the 9th of September, two major countries – the Russian Federation and the US – in front of the world agreed on a good plan. The plan of the 9th of September is logical. Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and then addressing both the ambiguity about Al Nusra and the issue about grounding the Syrian airforce. The two major countries were again reminded again by everyone around the room – the ISSG – that they are expected to stand to their own commitment. And we know that they are working on it. But time in short. Meanwhile, what is happening is that Eastern Aleppo is under heavy attack. Meanwhile, everybody is going back to a new form of non-renewal of the cessation of hostilities but the conflict.

The next few hours – few days maximum – are crucial for making or breaking it. I want to believe that both Moscow and Washington are working on it seriously because the alternative is going back to conflict and war.

Q: Special Envoy, the moment that you met, the Syrian Government said it was going to retake all of Aleppo. The timing wasn’t coincidence?
SdM: That was clear today. Both co-chairs have been  de-facto - undermined  by others, who have so far not wanted or have tried to not deliver on the cessation of hostilities. The entry point for doing that was the humanitarian access. The government made it very complicated and some of the opposition made it complicated too. Why? Because at the end of the day, the real delivery of this whole plan was and remains the touching armed opposition from Al Nusra and grounding the Syrian airforce. Can you imagine a Syria where this would be clarified? You would see a different Syria the day after and we would have convoys moving. That was undermined but the two co-chairs have the right, duty and frankly the power to actually restore that.

Q: What kept them away from reaching an agreement? It looks like such a simple process to achieve. 
SdM: Well, it’s more complicated than that because the two co-chairs have the power but also need to be able to exercise it. As I said, there have been spoilers on both sides.

Q: Isn’t one of the co-chairs one of the spoilers?
SdM: I will not point fingers on this. What I will say is that both of them to me look as if they are interested. They’ve worked days, weeks and hours in order to get one form of agreement that was on the 9th of September. I was there. If they didn’t want to believe in it, they could‘ve stopped much earlier. The delivery is what matters and the spoilers. But they have the power and they now also have to also make it work.

Q: What can you tell the people of Aleppo? Have the international community and diplomacy completely failed?
SdM: What I would tell the people of Aleppo is the following: What we are watching at the moment is really tragic. I know you that you may not believe anymore in a cessation of hostilities but you have to still give a chance to both Russians and Americans to live up to their own commitment.

Q: (Inaudible – multiple questions)
Sdm: Let me be clear on that. Maybe just pro-forma but pro-forma matters. Those who announced the cessation of hostilities were Russia and America. Only they can declare that it’s over. They are still trying and that I can confirm. We had a long meeting. It was a difficult meeting. Not a good meeting but they are still trying. So, declaring dead would be wrong.

Thank you.