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Remarks at Opening Session of Riyadh 2 Meeting by Mr. Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria

22 November 2017

I want to thank Saudi Arabia for the great effort in preparing and convening this conference.  It is high time, it is the right time, and it is done in the way that can help Geneva and the UN. I believe this will assist the UN-led negotiations, in Geneva, on 2254 for a political solution. I would like to frankly thank the wide spectrum of Syrian opposition present here. It is very impressive and historic to see how many of you are present.
 
I know it was not easy for some of you to come here and many of you have and will be having hard discussions among each other. That is what democracy is, and that is what is expected when you are trying to have a common line regarding a very complicated environment. This is normal and in fact, necessary. We want to show and we want to show through you that this is the way the future of Syria can be decided.
 
So you have my full respect. In the end, I think each of you decided to put Syria first by coming here: for a better future for your homeland and the region. I believe and we all believe -  and I know the Minister feels the same, and I just had a useful meeting with him - that you are determined in Riyadh to achieve this and to contribute in Geneva.
 
You are meeting at a very defining moment for the search for a political settlement of the conflict. You can see it: history is moving forward and we need to be up to it.
 
We have in front of our eyes the horrible wreckage of an appalling war that has taken a toll on Syria, on the Syrians and on the region.
 
The UN will continue to be firmly guided by the UN Security Council resolutions, which have been issued by the Security Council on Syria and particularly the one that has been guiding us and which will continue to guide us – 2254 -- which lays out a very clear path for operationalizing the Geneva Communique and achieving a political settlement.
 
If you here, in Riyadh, today can put in place a cohesive, representative, strategically wise, effective team that reflects the diversity of the Syrian society and is willing to bring peace to your homeland; ready to negotiate without preconditions; which we are expecting the Government to have to do; and with a clear negotiating strategy about a political solution, then you will be instilling a new dynamic into this process of peace in which we will come closer to our common goal that is the implementation of 2254.
 
A strong, unified team is a creative partner in Geneva and we need that; one who can actually explore more than one way to arrive to the goal that we need to have. We cannot serve the Syrian people without creativity.
 
If we are smart - if you are smart -  then in a few days in Geneva, we will be beginning to frame the political process and any other initiatives that may or may not take place elsewhere will be framed and influenced by, and fed back to that process.
 
I intend to convene not just one round but actually two rounds this year in December in Geneva. But to do so I need a strong and creative Syrian [opposition] delegation. 
 
So I will be pressing hard for real negotiations on 2254; for a particular up-front attention on a new constitution and UN-supervised elections as per 2254; all in the context of continuing to work on a credible, all-inclusive, non-sectarian governance and on combatting terrorism as per 2254.
 
We will also press – and we will never give up – on the issue of the appalling plight of detainees, abductees and missing persons – and on full humanitarian access in any besieged area or hard-to-reach-area including, these days, Eastern Ghouta. 
 
It is our common interest that today you elect the best and most inclusive team among yourselves. Use this opportunity to include also a meaningful representation of women, who are 51% of the population of Syria. I can see that there are many [of] them here, so there is no excuse for not including a substantial number of women. Commit unambiguously to the political path and no other path - we are not talking about war, we are talking about building peace now.  And work for the good of Syria. 
 
I believe that change then will be possible and will come to Syria, and that in Geneva, I repeat, in Geneva, we can map out the means by which this can really happen.
 
I wish you all the best in these two days and we count on you.  Alsalam aleikum wa rahma Allah wa barakatuh, wa atamanna lakum al tawkiq.


22 November 2017, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia