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Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura’s Stakeout after Briefing the Security Council

12 April 2017

Good afternoon.

You have being obviously listening because this has been an open meeting, so you're not going to reframe or re-paraphrase what had been said by the different delegations.

Let me summarise it with, or summarise my own message based on what we have heard with the seven points:

Point number one, stakes are high, no doubt, after the recent developments stakes at high.

Point number two, this is time for clear thinking and a diplomatic surge not the military surge, and corporation. If there was one common point among all speakers in spite of obvious differences, it was the urgency for supporting a political process. None of the participants was in doubt of that.

Point number three, we don't need to reinvent the wheel here, we have a framework, the goal is clear, it is 2254, it is political transition, there is a political package to work on, there are the four baskets, nothing of that is in doubt, so if anyone is ready for a political process, learning from what has been happening in the last few days and wanting to escalate, the package is ready.

Point number four, what is happening while we are talking in Moscow at the moment, at this very moment, in the discussion between the United States and the Russian Federation is very important. What we were doing here was in fact constantly being aware of the importance of what is currently, taking place in Moscow.

Point number five, they is new echelance, new moments. One is the meeting in Tehran, which is going to take placed regarding re-launching the ceasefire, which is urgently needed, and the Astana meeting. And then following that we are ready to re-launch the intra-Syrian talks in order to make sure that there is at least a serious attempt to have a ceasefire, and that could be in May. I will not indicate today a date, because we want to frankly maintain the pressure for the Astana delivery on that, because ceasefire would make a big difference for the perception of positive intra-Syrian talks.

So the priorities are, restoring the ceasefire, humanitarian access and re-launching the Geneva talks, and the diplomatic surge, these are the main points.

Q: The Ambassador of Syria just said Syria does not have any chemical weapons and it was confirmed by the JIM and Sigrid Kaag, can you refute that?
SdM: I can only say that was some time ago, now everyone has been asking for an investigation, and there is UN capacity for doing so, we should give the chance to OPCW and the JIM to do actually what they should be doing.

Q: All the 15 praised you, that is what this council had today in common. Only good words for the work of de Mistura, so de Mistura I guess cannot give up because they were always these words, maybe he is tired, maybe he doesn't want to it anymore. So you are not going to give up, but for what you saw today that we saw certain phrases exchange between the Russian Deputy Ambassador against them, British Ambassador, this looks even worse than the cold war. What advice you can give, to who really want to help Syria and the peace process, who really want to help you?
SdM: I think to stick to what is said and all of them said, they are a going and intend to, one stick to the fact that in spite of sometimes having the feeling that there is a military solution that there is only a political solution, and two, to support therefore the political process, which is represented by the Secretary-General and myself. So to apply what they say and I think that would be good enough.

Q: My question is about your meetings yesterday in Washington, I understood that you met with the Mr. McMaster and others, and would be appreciative if you could tell us what was the atmosphere. Second how confident are you about the guarantors of Astana process that they are helping to bring peace in Syria rather than escalating the situation?
SdM: Well, yesterday I was in Washington, I had meetings at the National Security Council, I even had the opportunity for a short meeting with Secretary Mattis. My main contribution is to show and explain to the Americans, as I have done to the Russians and to everyone else frankly that there is a political way out. There is a credible political process and that one can build on that. I will not elaborate on more details and on the discussions. Regarding Astana too very important men, President Putin and President Erdogan, just after 29 December announced a ceasefire and they committed themselves to make all what they can to make sure that the ceasefire works, and it did work during the period of January even good part of February. It is time for that commitment to be renewed, because they do have the guarantors, to which now Iran has joined the capacity of influencing this.  

Q: Will the US be attending the meetings in Tehran, Astana and Geneva; did they make a commitment at all?
SdM: You should ask them.
You know the US is already an observer in Astana. It has been observer in Astana since the first meeting which established the process of Astana, so it is their decision now whether they want to upgrade it or keep it at the observer level, so I would not comment on that.

Q: Are they committed to Geneva?  
SdM: They are very much of course, but don’t forget in Geneva the discussions are not among US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is among Syrians, observers and supporters from those countries are in the background and they would be there.

Q: In your remarks to the Security Council, you talked about the impact of the US strike last week. Can you tell us about the political and the military impact after the strike politically in Geneva. Did you see any change in the position of opposition and government after the US strikes against the Syrian forces, and on the military on the ground, how that strike increased the intensification of conflict there?
SdM: I will just limit myself to the comment I have just made, recent developments both the chemical attack and the recent US military strike have been a reminder in my opinion, a stimulator for any feeling that there is an urge, a real urge, for a diplomatic surge, that is all I can say at this stage.

Q: Right after the strike, your office put out statements saying you were operationally focused on it. I just wondered, specifically when did you learn about the strike and what did you do in response? Also in the US, there is a lot of focus on different statements by the administration about Assad not staying or not being legitimate. I just wanted to know when you see those, do you believe it is through your process, that the things that they are discussing will be carried out, or there is some separate process they are referring to  by which Assad no longer remain in power?
SdM: I frankly can't answer the second point, but what I can say is what I hear, and what I hear from the Americans, but also from anyone else, that the solution for the future of the Syrian political environment is through negotiation and according to resolution 2254 and through a UN led negotiation. All the rest I am not in a position of commenting on frankly. I learnt about the strike, not when it happened, later, and my first reaction was how can we now manage the crisis and avoid that it becomes an escalation, that has been my first thought, and that is normally what the UN should be doing.

Q: As you know this building is full of rumours, how long are you going to stay in this role.
SdM: There has been rumours on that for the last three years actually, because it is always an issue now and my main consideration was very personal frankly. I'm a human being like all of you and I have a family and the family has been extremely impatient about the fact that there is no time for them at all with this type of mission. But I must say the Secretary-General has been very generous in understanding that. And at the same time I have to tell you that the photos of the children affected by the chemical attack had an impact on my family, and when we discussed they felt and I was proud of that, look Staffan you have a job to do, family comes after in this case. And that I think helped me in making my own recommendation to the SG and the SG has been kind enough to take that into account.

Q: As you know a draft resolution is going to be put for vote this afternoon. There are indications Russia is going to veto it, but at least in the text that has already appeared that the resolution just focuses on condemnation of the attack and calls for detailed steps to enable a thorough independent investigation, do you have any opinion on the merits of this draft resolution?
SdM: short answer, no.

Q: I know the vision is for one unified Syria, do you see perhaps the country splitting into different regions in order to stop the fighting, not different countries but different regions?
SdM: When I was myself involved in Iraq and then later in Afghanistan, there was a moment when the debate became quite active about dividing the country or acknowledging a division of the country into tree, four areas because it appeared to be a simple solution, and lucky it didn't happen but there was a strong debate about that. I sometimes heard this option coming up on Syria, but as you heard also today, one Syria with its own unities is crucial and ISIL has already been able sometimes to show that they have been trying to divide not only Syria but Iraq into various portions. So the aim remains and should remain one Syria. De facto, there can be moments like the ones we are seeing at the moment in which they are areas which are beyond the control of one Syria or under the control or influence of others but the ultimate aim is one Syria.

Thank you very much. ​

New York, 12 April, 2017