Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | Transcript of press encounter by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

Transcript of press encounter by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

18 March 2016

SdeM: Good afternoon, today is the end of the first week. The first week of what we have been waiting for, for a very long time, Intra-Syrian talks. It has coincided to a large degree, today there were some incidents, but to a large degree, to a substantial reduction of violence. I have been checking now with the operations center, as you know, which is working day and night, that the military activities in respect of the cessation of hostilities had been more than by and large, except today, as I said there were some incidents, but not comparable at all to what we used to have.
So if the Syrian talks will produce this type of effect, Alhamdu lellah. Thank God.

The good news is that, I believe and I think we can say, that the proximity system, in other words, the proximity talks, has clearly contributed to keep the talks going. No walk outs, no excessive rhetoric, some discussions but not excessive rhetoric, no breakdowns, in spite of the fact that I am still obviously detecting large distances, but that is part of why you have talks, or consultations or negotiations, otherwise we would have had one nice signing ceremony, which is not yet the case.

The day was intense, and the first meeting again was with the Syrian women, with my women’s advisory board. I met them because they have constantly very good advice, really, genuinely good advice, but not only, they have also been very active in attempting, and to a certain degree succeeding in building a bridge between the various women of the different delegations, informally, and that is one of the functions that I hope the Syrian women to tell us and to teach us could be doing in this process.

And then I had a short acquaintance meeting with a group of individuals from Damascus and inside Syria. As you know the Security Council resolution is very clear in terms of the mandate I am given. I am supposed to consult anyone who has something to say in order to be able to move forward on what has been and should be the Intra-Syrian talks. And eventually serious negotiations.

Then I had a meeting with the government, where the government reiterated its own interest in having a commonly shared list of principles. And I think that would be our focus early next week, to see what are the grey zone of areas of common ground on the principles. Now principles are not just principles, they are the basis for then getting deeply into what we consider a common ground for what is the mother of all issues, which is the mandate for the political transition, no question on that.

And then I had a meeting with HNC, which I think you have just met them if I am not wrong, who have already produced substantive papers, they had gone deeper and I must say I am quite impressed by the level of depth in which they have been ready and ready, to engage the facilitator, the mediator, my team with substantial points regarding already their own vision of governance, hence political transition.

The issue of detainees was raised by me, by them and I raised it again with the government. The issue of detainees is unquestionably a crucial one and in fact at the very time with the reduction of violence taking place, substantially, thanks to the cessation of hostilities, bringing food is important, but bring people back to their own families, from both sides by the way, but no doubt, as I said, huge numbers according to any report, in the prisons of the government, should be given an opportunity to return home. That includes also those who have been abducted on the side of the opposition.
Next week will be the last week of the second round. The first one was a mini-round as you know but the mini-round was very productive.

It produced Munich, and Munich produced the two taskforces: one on humanitarian and one on ceasefire, not a small thing after five years. But this time next week will be important because we will be aiming at building a minimum common platform of not only principles but points that could lead to a better understanding in what direction we will be going for the political transition, which in my opinion will be the main focus of the next meeting, which will be in April, and we are already aiming very clearly for that. Remember there will be three additional ones, after which we need to see concrete results. When you compare it to five years of horrible war I think it is quite a short term ambition, but doable at this stage and certainly where we intend to get.

Q: (Original in French) Next week there will be a meeting between Lavrov and Kerry in Moscow. What do you expect from this meeting and what do you ask to the two co-chairs for the negotiations?

SdeM: (Original in French) It is a very good question, you have noticed that there are different means to make peace. One is discussions inside the Palais des Nations, the other is discussions outside. Proof is, Vienna and Munich have helped a lot for what we do today. I think the meetings between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry are crucial, because it could help a lot for the phase three, which will be in April. It doesn’t happen by accident, and fortunately it is not.

Q: What I understand till now is that you didn't receive the paper from the delegation of the government about the political transition. Does it mean that you will start the coming round with receiving this paper or will you have it, for example, in the period between the two rounds?

SdeM: Well, I leave it to them to actually decide when. I can tell you I am urging them for having a paper on the transition and the political transition, and I have already received a pretty good deep paper on the vision from HNC on transition. The government is currently focusing so much on principles, which are necessary in any type of common ground on transition, but I hope next week, and I have been saying so to them, that we will get their opinion, their details on how they see the political transition taking place. But that will not be conclusive. I am looking for the much deeper approach on it in the next round, and that is normal, because both sides need to metabolize it, go back to their own capitals, in the case of Damascus, in the case of the others to consult with their own friends in order to be able to go deeper on that. It is totally expected and I am not disappointed I am just pushing, that's my job and we are in hurry, let me tell you that, we are in hurry.

Q: (Original in French) Mr de Mistura, for the first time today the head of the Syrian Government delegation has abstained from raising the issue of questions of procedures. Can we understand now that procedural issues are behind us and that the substantive talks have started.

SdeM: (Original in French) It is always important to not ignore procedures, and to not forget that it is important to resolve them. But I have clearly said to the Syrian Government delegation that there are procedures and we can talk about them, but we should not avoid talking substance. Peace and people in Syria don’t need procedures, they need reality, and they are waiting for that.