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Transcript of the press encounter by Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeddine Ramzy following a meeting with the Syrian Government Delegation

16 March 2016

RER: Good afternoon. We had a useful meeting today. We discussed issues of substance as you will recall on Monday. The government of Syria delegation provided us with some ideas on the political process. We reacted to them, through seeking further clarifications. I think that the discussion was substantive, and it laid the ground for further important substantive discussion in the future.

We also, just for your information, will be continuing our discussions with other participants this afternoon. Tomorrow we will be meeting with the High Negotiations Committee to continue on the issues we had raised during the previous meeting. On Friday we will meet again with the Government of Syria delegation, with the HNC and possibly with other participants. The process as we see it at this stage is progressing. It probably reflects the situation on the ground where there has been, to a large extent, a reduction of violence, and that has also been reflected in the attitude of the various delegations, including yesterday with the High Negotiations Committee and today with the Government.

So by and large, we see that we have achieved important progress in just a few days, and we look forward to continuing our discussions with all participants in the coming days.
Thank you very much I will take some questions.

Q. Who are the participants you will be meeting this afternoon?
RER: Today we will meet, as you know - in the first round of the Geneva talks we had issued invitations to a number of participants that are members of the Moscow-Cairo Group. Part of them will be already in town this afternoon, so we will be meeting with them later on in the afternoon. Mr. de Mistura will be back by then and he will be chairing the meeting.

From here, interpreted from Arabic into English.

Q. Syrian Ambassador Al-Jaafari said earlier today that the meeting only focused on the format, when are you going to enter into substance? And about your meeting at 6 tonight, is it with the opposition delegation or with consultants?

RER: With regards to the issue of format and substance, there is not always a clear distinction between them. We discussed issues and we gave some explanations regarding the ideas proposed by the [delegation of the] Syrian [Government], and thus substantive discussions had started. The format is still an issue to be discussed and we are moving in parallel between both. Format and substance differ from one party to the other. I respect what Ambassador Jaafari said this morning, but I think we also discussed substantive issues.

Regarding the meeting tonight [with] those representing the Moscow-Cairo Group, we extended invitations to them for the first round to help us visualize the future of Syria. I know there is a misunderstanding that those we are meeting are our consultants, but no, the invitation was clear and we consult them on the future of Syria. They do not have a “Consultant” status, and as per United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 there is a status for the High Negotiations Committee and we also invite and talk to others. We are very keen on listening to the broadest spectrum of Syrians, whether inside or outside Syria, and our meeting with them today comes within this framework.

Q. Regarding the ideas that have been presented by the [Syrian] Government delegation and those presented by the opposition, do you see enough common ground that could be built on or is it too complicated? And are you going to avoid discussing controversial issues such as the Transitional Governing Body?

RER: The role of the mediator is to find the meeting points or the common ground and I can say that there are some issues that we can consider as a common factor between the two sides. I think that there are issues that the Syrians whether here in Geneva, inside or outside Syria, will never disagree on. I think it is encouraging that we found issues of common understanding. Our mission is to build on them and that’s what we are going to do during the coming days, but the launching point is not bad. There is some agreement on issues, undoubtedly there are differences, and important differences, but I think that these could be dealt with during the coming period.

Q. There were leaks today that the Kurds in Syria are going to establish a “federal” system. What is the UN’s comment on this issue?

RER: The UN stance is clear, the UN Security Council is clear on this issue. All the Syrians I talked to are for a united, sovereign Syria; this is something clear and non-negotiable. The future system in Syria should be decided by the Syrians, we have no comment on this. This is an announcement by a party, they take responsibility for it. As for us, we work within the framework of the United Nations Charter and UN Resolutions that stipulate the unity and safety of Syrian territories. This stance is clear.

From here, in English again.

Q. Next week there will be a meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry. What do you think of this meeting?

RER: Well I hope it will be another successful meeting between Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry , as you know it is both of these Ministers who have been instrumental in pushing the political process on Syria forward. They have chaired the various ISSG meetings, they have been able, along with other members, to produce important documents. These documents have been the basis on which we are working. This meeting comes at a time after important decisions have been made during the past few days. I trust that this meeting will be another important meeting that will bring the tragic situation in Syria to an end for the Syrian people at last to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is my hope and I am sure that both Ministers have this very much in mind.

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