Saturday, March 17, 2012

Syria: Transcript of the stakeout by the Joint Special Envoy (SJE) of the United Nations and the League of Arab States

Source and headline: United Nations

Transcript of the stakeout by the Joint Special Envoy (SJE) of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis

Geneva, 16 March 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

I just finished briefing the Security Council about my mission. I shared with them the consultations I held in the region and the calls I have been making around the world to ensure that there is strong support for the mission and we all agree on one mediation process. And I encouraged the Council to speak with one voice as we try to resolve the crisis in Syria.

When I was in Syria, I was able to have discussions not only with President Assad and Foreign Minister Moualem, but I was also able to see some of the opposition leaders, religious leaders, civil society, businessmen and women and also met with the Chairman of the Syrian National Council in Ankara, where I held discussions with Prime Minister Erdoðan and his Foreign Minister.

The region is extremely concerned about developments in Syria. Their concern goes beyond Syria itself because the crisis can have a serious impact for the whole region if it is not handled effectively. I am doing my best with the support of everyone to try and find a peaceful solution. The first objective is for all of us to try and stop the violence, the human rights abuses and the killings and get an unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to the needy and of course the al-important issue of a political process that will lead to a democratic Syria fulfilling the aspirations of the Syrian people.

In my discussions with the Security Council this afternoon, I was encouraged by the very strong support and the determination of the Council to work together. I know some of you are smiling. There have been some differences but that is also normal, and I hope pretty soon you will be hearing one voice from the Council. I discussed with the Council proposals I made to the Syrian government that [were] aimed to: one, stop the violence; accelerate humanitarian assistance and establish credibility and confidence for the political process when it is initiated.

I will be sending in a team this weekend to pursue the discussions and the proposals we left on the table, and at the appropriate time, when I deem sufficient progress has been made, I shall be prepared to go back to the region.

If you have any questions, I will take them.

Q: You announced that you received some answers from the Syrian regime about your proposals. Today, when you talked with the Security Council, did you tell them that you received all the answers that you expect or are there still some answers you did not receive?

SJE: I told the Security Council we were talking with the Syrians and the talking continues.

Q: How much time are you going to give Mr. Assad to answer? The opposition believes that he is buying time to finish with the opposition.

SJE: Time is always an issue in negotiations and of course each crisis or each situation has its own specificities. What is important is for us to engage and make sure the other side are engaging seriously, and to ensure that you are moving ahead and making progress. And as long as you believe that the discussions and the talks that you are having are meaningful, I think you should continue. If you come to the conclusion or make the judgment that it is a waste of time, or one side is playing for time, you draw the consequences and take appropriate action.

Q: Coming back to the point of humanitarian access, do you have a firm commitment when humanitarian support from UN agencies. (inaudible)

SJE: You are talking about the mission? I think they left, I have a feeling they will be there this weekend if they are not there already to start their mission with the Syrian government. And I hope they will be given the access they need and the cooperation necessary to get their work done.

Q: How do you define this conflict? And how much (inaudible)?

SJE: You’ve raised a very important question. Let me start with the second part. I have seen the government and I have also spoken to some members of the opposition. I have not spoken to all of them. What is important is that the opposition I met - it was not the armed opposition – were keen to get talks going and resolve the issue politically and peacefully. Of course, they are impatient. The killings have been going on, it is over a year now, and they are frustrated and upset and angry and they want to see results. And they themselves are trying to organize the opposition groups under an umbrella organization, whether the SNC or whatever, that would engage with the government when the time comes for talks. But when you are asking how do you define this conflict, I think it is a conflict in a region of the world that has seen many, many traumatic events. I think we need to handle the situation in Syria very, very carefully. Yes, we tend to focus on Syria, but any miscalculation that leads to major escalation will have impact in the region which will be extremely difficult to manage. Some people have a tendency to compare it with Libya or other situations… but I believe Syria would be much more complex and this is why everybody is moving very cautiously and I hope we’ll be able to succeed. And the Syrian Government has to know that the people of Syria want to get on with their lives. They are tired, they have suffered a lot and I can tell you it is for the people of Syria that I toil. I have said in Damascus to the Government that we should place the interest of the people at the centre of all our efforts and remember that they need to be given a peace of mind and stability for them to get on with their lives. So I repeat once again in the name of the people and for the sake of humanity, let’s stop this brutality. Thank you.

Q: How was the atmosphere in your meeting with Mr. Assad?

SJE: It was welcoming and correct.

Q: Ce qui attend le peuple syrien c’est des choses pratiques. La seule chose qui ressort c’est l’envoi d’une mission humanitaire. Et lorsque cette mission accepte d’être sous le contrôle du gouvernement syrien, est-ce que ça ne risque pas de biaiser, puisque le gouvernement a annoncé qu’il n’y a pas de crise humanitaire?

SJE : Mais si on ne travail pas avec le gouvernement syrien, comment peut-on faire le travail nécessaire? Ce sont eux qui contrôlent le terrain, ils sont obligés de travailler avec eux. J’espère qu’ils vont avoir les capacités ou bien l’indépendance ou bien la flexibilité de faire le travail, mais ils sont obligés de travailler avec le gouvernement.

Q. A question on the response from the Syrians. Out of the questions that you posed them, how many did they actually answer?

SJE: I don’t think we can look at it mathematically like that.

Q. Are you satisfied with them?

SJE: We are continuing our discussions, we are continuing our discussions, and as I said, the team is going in over the week-end to continue.

Q. Do you see realistically that the coalition that has been formed… (inaudible)

SJE: That will have to come out of the talks between the Syrians. It will be for them to decide. The process that I am asked to lead is a Syrian-led process, which leads to the establishment of a democratic Syria, and the decision will have to be taken by the Syrians. I can’t take the decisions for them.

Thank you.