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Transcript of Press Stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, following Security Council Briefing

20 December 2018

SdeM: Good afternoon. I think we have known each other for a while - you always have been very much following what I have been doing. So let me be a little bit frank, if I can, on this.

Today I am going to limit myself simply to what I have been saying at the Security Council, it was a very long intervention and there were many points that I had made both in terms of legacy and the messaging - so I really frankly don’t believe that I want to add anything.

Now, to reassure you because I want to believe that in view of the fact that we have been working together here so many occasions over the last four years, that you are not being deprived from anything, because I know you have a job, I have a job, you have a job and I always respected it, I can assure you that I do not plan, neither intend to make any press conference or any interview before my departure, end of mission.

There are two reasons for that, the first on is, I really, really, respect what I would like anyone to do [in my case]. In other words, imagine if I started giving prescriptions, regarding lessons learned, what should be done, or what could be done, or what was not done, publicly - that would not be fair for my successor, who as I told you I respect and is a friend. The second reason is that, with events which have been taking place recently, there is a lot of movement taking place, and I need to, naturally, metabolise all what is been happening during the last year, and then after that, after I end my mission, I may be involved in putting it in writing or answering questions - so forgive me if I do not actually raise any other point.

I know, you will ask me one question, go ahead:

Question: What is the impact of the US withdrawal from Syria? What do you expect? Did Assad win?

SdeM: The answer to that for us is the following: As far as I am concerned - and I am sure I am talking, not only on my behalf - it is totally premature for making any comments on my side on the implications, the effects, of that important decision which was announced yesterday, both on the political ground, and on the military ground, so I am unable to make any comments, it is premature for me to do so.

Question: Do you have a message for the Syrian people right now? You have been in the job for four and a half years, should they have any hope?

SdeM; This is a valid point. The Syrian people, and you heard how much I referred to them - and when I mention civil society, when I mention the women, I am not mentioning political leaders, I am talking about the people - should know one thing, and I have been trying to say it. I have been holding the fort for four and half years, I have always said: I was not ever going to abandon them, and what I meant is the UN, will never abandon them, they should know that, they have gone through terrible things.

There are only actually two constants in this whole conflict as I have seen. One, there has never been a constant moment - look what has been happening, we get constantly changes both militarily, politically - going through the four years. And the second constant, the Syrian people have been constantly suffering in between that. So, they should know that whatever happens it is nothing depending on Mr. de Mistura, or Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, or Kofi Annan or even Geir Pedersen - it will be the UN. The UN will never abandon the Syrian people. And if you look fairly at what has happened it could have been many more victims if the UN - through food aid, through vaccinations, through making life complicated to everyone by establishing committees, meetings, hoping to make any type of difference, and ceasefires - would have been many more and they know it.

Is this enough? No, but we will never abandon them - and it is not about a person coming and going - although I said I think quite a long time, hoping and believing that at a certain point an entry point would have come. It has not yet come but I do see this possibility.

Thank you very much.

New York, 20 December 2018