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Opening remarks by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura at the joint press stake-out with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

3 May 2016

SE de Mistura: First of all, thank you Minister Lavrov and thanks to your colleagues for having allowed the possibility for an urgent, sort of, consultation which we have been very eager to have with yourself, even on a holiday today.

The main priority/reason why, as you know, I came here was of course to be able to discuss with the Russian Federation authorities the urgent feeling that what has been so far achieved should not be wasted, and that we should be able, instead, to build on it and move forward. And the danger was there. That's why at the Security Council, I took the liberty to drawing the attention of those who have been sponsoring, the main sponsors, in other words, the Co-Chairs, Russian Federation and the US, about the fact that my feeling was that we were in danger of, putting seriously in danger the cessation of hostilities.

In March, we were able to have a very proactive Intra-Syrian talks. And it was because there was a wind in the back of the Intra-Syrian talks, which were held by the feeling that there was a cessation of hostilities progressing - nothing is perfect of course - and that the humanitarian aid was progressing, while of course the most important thing is, the political solution through a political transition.

These recent talks were, in a way, not helped by the news that we were getting. The cessation of hostilities was becoming more and more ‘fragilized’. That’s why we were still able to come up with some conclusions which, if you read them, are quite interesting, in the sense that they have been showing that there has been progress particularly in the first steps in what can be considered common lines on a political transition, which is the key of the future in Syria. Syrian led but sponsored and supported by the international community.

But then suddenly we got feelings that the cessation of hostilities was in danger and that's why now the feeling and the hope that we will be able, in a way, to re-implement and re-invigorate and re-launch the cessation of hostilities is crucial. And we all hope - and we have to be cautious - but we all hope that this indication, perhaps in the next few hours, will be able to have also a re-launch of the cessation of hostilities under whatever name we want to call it. Silence or non-silence -- what the Syrians want to hear is no bombs, no rockets, no shelling, no aerial bombing anymore and no canisters so they can start believing in what we are trying to do with them.

If that takes place, then we are on the right track again, and we have been preparing for that. The UN has been very proud actually to be able to quickly organize an Operations Center, much more effective even technically and technologically, than what we had in the past; with more staff from both sides, both the Russians and the American side. Then the next steps are, of course, preparing for the ISSG, perhaps even a Security Council meeting reinforcing all this process and next the Intra-Syrian talks, which obviously are the beginning of the end of the Syrian crisis, because the key word is political transition.

So, thank you very much again Minister Lavrov for having been able to have this useful , proactive and constructive talks at the right time, on top of it.

Question (translated from Russian): My first question is to Mr. Lavrov. You said that there will be a new monitoring center in Geneva. In what way will be different to your the centers in Hmeimem and Amman and how will it contribute to the resolution of the conflict? There is a lot of different opinions on any peace process in Syria. Among the rebels some groups support a cessation of hostilities, while others like the FSA, reject it. How is the ISSG going to go about ensuring all sides abide the ceasefire considering that the areas these groups operate in often overlap?

(SL answered first to this question)

SdeM: Just to complement what Minister Lavrov said, you see I have been working in the UN for many years, 45 years now, and I have seen many cessation of hostilities or ceasefires taking place in many conflicts, much less complicated sometimes than this one. And very rarely they are perfect. There has been and there are constant infringements but the secret is actually to be able to contain it and to avoid it to become a bush fire, which has been the case the other day in Aleppo -- that's why it needs to be contained.

And an Operations Center as effective as the one we have been working on can and must do that, and becomes immediate, real-time containment operation, through the influence each side can have. And I believe that can also be an experiment for the future, if this, as I hope, will be working. To answer your point, on the 27th of February there was something which many considered almost a miracle, because after five years of a conflict one would not expect that by a simple decision by both the Russian Federation and the US, of course in consultation with their own partners and the people in countries they know, they were able to actually announce the rules of the game of the status of cessation of hostilities and it took place. And that was in the ISSG and after the ISSG, the Security Council, with clear rules. Those rules apply still, obviously, and that will take care of your other point frankly, because anyone who wants to take part in the cessation of hostilities should be reading and applying those rules. Thank you.

(SL followed up)

Question (translated from Russian): I have a question to Sergey Lavrov. Do you feel there are conditions for a meeting of the Syria Support Group? And my second question is to Staffan de Mistura. When do you think the Intra-Syrian dialogue can be resumed?

(SL answered first to this question)

SdeM: May is going to be an important month for Syria and for all of us. If, as we all hope, there will be some type of confirmation that even Aleppo will be returning into a cessation of hostiles status, then what could imagine all of us is that meanwhile we will be restarting and pushing also for the humanitarian access and for the Intra-Syrian talks. Everything is connected, nothing is a condition but everything is connected. And it just explains - I would have technical meetings, which proved to be quite effective by the way Sergey, when have them in Geneva and elsewhere to prepare them for the next Intra-Syrian talks. If then meanwhile there is an ISSG and that is also reinforcing the international community on the points we have already agreed, then you can see that May may become as we hope an important and positive month for Syria.

Question (translated): I have a question to Mr. de Mistura but before that I would like to ask Minister Lavrov to provide a clarification, specifically in terms of response measures, are we talking about a military action? Who will take the decision? Who will execute this measure? Is it the US-led coalition? The Russian armed forces? And now a question to Mr. de Mistura, some of the key regional players insist on al-Assad leaving as a precondition, so can we really talk about direct talks between the government and the opposition when we have this categorical statements, something that is a barrier to the peaceful talks.

(SL answered first to this question)

SdeM: I am guided by the Security Council resolutions and by the Secretary-General and the resolution which speaks quite clearly about the way forward is 2254, think about it, look about the concept of a roadmap which is quite clear. We are talking about a new transitional governance, according to Geneva communiqué, new transitional governance, and followed by, under that governance, a new constitution, and new elections, Presidential and Parliamentarian elections and under UN supervision, including also the participation of the diaspora. Well I think there is quite a space there for being able to look at the political transition in a common way, and that's why frankly the commonalities we were able to find during the talks, this round of talks, are moving in the direction of exactly that, a political transition.

Thank you.

For official remarks of the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, please click here.