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Near Verbatim transcript of stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura

26 July 2016

26 July 2016, Geneva

Special Envoy: Good evening. First let me say in French [few words of condolences and condemnation of today’s church attack in France].

Today as you know we had a meeting in Geneva at the UN premises here with both American and Russian senior officials. The subject was related to the urgent need of progress on the cessation of hostilities, on the humanitarian access, on counter-terrorism and indeed political transition.

This meeting coincided, not by accident, with the meeting which took place in Laos, between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry, and where they actually discussed, as you know, ways to build on the understanding that they had reached already in Moscow last week, and the steps required to make this understanding concrete.

We have made some progress today frankly, but more details need to be worked out in the next few days, particularly between the American and the Russian side but we are there to support too.

Our aim, and we say it very clearly, is to proceed with the third round of the Intra-Syrian talks towards the end of August. Meanwhile we hope that concrete progress on the Kerry-Lavrov understanding will take physically place. This will indeed create the right atmosphere, both on the ground and for the Intra-Syrian talks. This is not a pre-condition, but we all know, we all agree, that if such steps take place, and we hope so, will have indeed a strong positive effect on the environment surrounding the talks.

In the context of this trilateral meeting today, we, the UN, the facilitator, the mediator, were asked by the co-chairs to continue preparing proposals for addressing difficult issues that are related to talks, and that’s what we will be doing during these days while preparing ourselves for the end of august.

That’s basically what I can tell you today, of course I am ready to take some questions.

Question: You just said that there has been some progress made today, during that meeting between the high level delegations, could you please elaborate on this progress, and you said also that you will continue to talk during the next few days, does that mean that this meeting will take place during the end of the week? Thank you

Special Envoy: Let me certify that the so-called trilateral meeting at the request of the two co-chairs, Russia and America, which took place today with our presence, has ended today. Now that doesn’t mean that homework doesn’t need to be done by technical delegations, both Russian and American, who will be continuing in the next few days on the steps which have been agreed upon in Moscow between Kerry and Lavrov.

Question: Today in the morning, the American Secretary of State announced that there will be a meeting between him and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov next week. What is the clear message you would like to send to the meeting next week and what are the priorities you think, if achieved, will help you announce the date of the next round.

Special Envoy: First of all I am already indicating very clearly our intention, our aim to actually hold the Intra-Syrian talks towards the end of August. That’s a fact. But I also said that in order to make these talks fruitful and hopeful we are certainly all of us very eager to see what is the outcome of the steps agreed upon in Moscow and I presume that all the meetings which are taking place between now and the next few days and week, will aim at trying to make those steps concrete.

Question: Previously you have indicated that before lining up a new round of talks you want to make progress on a number of key issues such as the target of al-Nusra issue and also having a formula, I think this is the word, for the political transition. So are you saying that you are confident in getting an agreement on either of those two issues by the end of August, in the next few weeks, and in the background of course, the situation in Aleppo has gotten far, far worse, so, do we have time to wait till the end of August?

Special Envoy: I think your point is very much taken. In fact today obviously we were unable to not very much talk about all Aleppo and Damascus in all fairness. The bombing, the rocket and the shelling in central Damascus and the horrible events which are taking place in the hospitals in Aleppo were very much on the radar screen. And therefore they are part of what everyone feels and [inaudible] in order to address those steps that have been discussed in Moscow. So the talks are certainly not going to wait for the improvement in Aleppo and in Damascus, we really hope that meanwhile, even tomorrow, the sooner the better, there will be some improvement and we will discuss this at the next meeting on Thursday, you know, where we will be able to elaborate more on the humanitarian and on the security updates. If there is more about the overall picture that we are talking about, in other words, how to make sure that the talks take place in the best possible conditions and how to make sure that what was agreed upon with a long discussion, but fruitful discussion, in Moscow between Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry and President Putin becomes concrete.

Question: In Laos, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke about practical steps to avoid the situation where the so-called moderate opposition remains in areas controlled by what he described as terrorist, it seems that some sort of demarcation that he has discussed with John Kerry , the Secretary of State. Can you give us any understanding, from the United Nations point of view, of exactly how such demarcation between rebel groups is going to apply on the ground?

Special Envoy. I am not going to be in a position of getting into those details. They are probably exactly the reason why those practical steps require more discussion between the Americans and the Russians. What I can say, and say very clearly, is that according to the UN and the Security Council resolutions related to terrorism, and therefore counter-terrorism, al-Nusra, and Daesh are terrorist organizations.
Thank you very much and see you on Thursday.

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