13 April 2016
Staffan de Mistura (SdeM): Since we have not seen each other for a while, I will try to be a little bit more extensive. I just returned actually today after a quite intensive visit to Moscow, Amman, Damascus, Teheran, and the main purpose was to sound the authorities in these capitals about their own advice on how to make sure that this current phase of the Intra-Syrian talks are as productive or as effective as possible.
I must say all of them – that’s why I have to correct a little bit the perception of those who preceded me – indicated interest and support actually in the progress of a political discussion aiming at a political transition.
With all of them I have been very clear that what we aim at is actually an agenda which is based on political transition, with the issue of governance and constitution as per (Security Council) resolution 2254, and none of them actually expressed any doubt that that is the priority and agenda.
And the word governance is crucial, and no one had any objection to that point.
Today, we started as promised – you remember, it was going to be during the week, it had to wait for at least this round of visits, I arrived this morning, we started anyway the first meeting with the delegation of the HNC (High Negociations Committee).
I briefed them about the visits, and I indicated that we are going to pursue exactly that agenda and that will be the agenda that I will also pursue with the government: political transitional, governance and constitution. I did raise, and by the way I raised it in all capitals, my concern on the deterioration in some places of the security situation. But they have been still incidents and not a bush fire, and therefore we consider, and I have been discussing it with all concerned, that in spite of the several and serious incidents the cessation of hostilities is still holding, particularly when we compare to what it used to be in the past.
We need to make sure, at any cost, that the cessation of hostilities, in spirit and in substance, continues to give hope to the Syrian people, because that is what made all of them believe that, in fact, even if they have to wait for the Intra-Syrian talks, their lives are at least improved.
That is why tomorrow, at the taskforce, we will be raising very actively the issue about making sure that those incidents, which have been serious, but are still incidents, are contained by those who can do so.
Indeed, it will be quite appropriate I think, just because we need to make sure that if incidents in the cessation of hostilities are too often repeated they could at least deteriorate the spirit and the confidence in it. That’s why perhaps it will be good timing for a reaffirmation, by those who have been supporting and promoting the cessation of hostilities, in their faith and determination in protecting it, because at the beginning of the second round of talks that would be a significant help.
As you know, on Friday I think, the government delegation, which is confirmed, will be coming, to my understanding when I was in Damascus, will be led again by Ambassador Jaafari, so that we will be able to expand discussions and negotiations related to the three points of the agenda.
You will know and you will see, and you have already seen, it is normal that each delegation normally states its own strong position. But that does not indicate at all that when we come here, we come here to negotiate. That’s why with all due respect to statements, the reality is that, at a certain point, we are going to go deeper and deeper into the issue of political transition.
Q. There are talks about the fact that there would be a possibility of direct talks during this round of negotiations. Do you have certain dates about such direct negotiations?
SdeM: Well, I can’t fix a date, I can’t. I will only tell you one thing: the moment I perceive any type of possibility for this to take place, I will immediately do it. Meanwhile we can easily have proximity talks and still be able to communicate messages. But I agree with you that this is my aspiration, but we need to be ready for that.
Q. The expectation is that this round will tackle the core issue of a political transition, and Assad’s future. How do you comment on Assad saying that the TGB is not constitutional?
SdeM: I am not commenting on constitutional matters. I work for the UN, so I am only commenting on UN Security Council resolutions. And the Security Council resolution refers to the Geneva communiqué, and the Geneva communiqué refers to the Transitional Governing Body. And the resolution which is guiding me is 2254, so that is my comment.
Q. The HNC just discussed with us that they had a negative impression; you addressed that slightly. But how do you explain that they come away with the impression that your trip through the region was negative, when you say that it was not? Please also discuss the political transition because we spoke just today with Deputy Foreign Minister Mekdad in Damascus, who says that it will never be accepted, that it is a dream. Is that the same message you got from Walid Moallem?
SdeM: I don’t know why this negative perception, perhaps because I am a little bit tired from my long trip, or perhaps because I did look and expressed concern about the humanitarian situation, and I did indicate there was concern, like we should all, when we see many incidents and we are worried about the cessation of hostilities. But I did also confirm to them that my visits to each of those capitals indicated clearly that they were supportive to what we are trying to do in terms of political transition; there was no doubt on that. From Moscow to Teheran, even Damascus agreed on the fact that this was the agenda. I believe that if you look at it carefully – I think in the Novosti interview of President Bashaar al-Assad, there was a reference to political transition more than once so I don’t see anyone doubting that that is the agenda. Now, of course, how you go deeper into it that will be the issue. But that is why we have this type of talks.
Geneva, 13 April 2016