17 July 2017: Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), told the Security Council on Monday that after retaking the northern city of Mosul from terrorists, the Baghdad must now pave the way towards national settlement and reconciliation by addressing the long-standing grievances, needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people. The road ahead was challenging, notably in reclaiming territories in the Governorates of Ninawa and Anbar, Hawija District in Kirkuk Governorate, and elsewhere.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Iraq (document S/2017/596), Mr. Kubis emphasized the need for demining, stabilization and reconstruction to enable the return of internally displaced persons. The enforcement of law and order, rule of law, justice and accountability, as well as reforms, good governance and development were also critical. “Da’esh’s ultimate defeat can only be secured through inclusive solutions,” he said, welcoming the guidance of the Al-Marja’iyya, who in their victory sermons, pressed those in power to view citizens as equals, regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity or nationality.
However, the rising sentiment in favour of collective punishment of families perceived to be associated with Da’esh was of concern. UNAMI had prioritized justice for those affected by human rights violations committed in the ongoing armed conflict. It was pursuing a national strategy that aimed to allow domestic courts jurisdiction over international crimes, which would complement international efforts to gather evidence on crimes committed by ISIL.
As the fight to eliminate Da’esh was nearing a close, the United Nations was repositioning its response to sexual violence to support the reintegration of survivors into their communities. It also had engaged with senior Iraqi officials on the establishment of the Interministerial Committee on Grave Child Rights Violations.
27 June 2017: Text of Security Council briefing by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy on Syria:
"As usual in Syria we have a mixed picture and I have to refer to it. There have been some interesting technical steps in advance of the 7th round of intra-Syrian talks that will take place as you know very well by now on the period of the 10-14 July. There are currently serious efforts on the other hand underway to deliver further agreements and implementation agreements regarding the de-escalation zones before an Astana meeting which is planned on the 4-5 July. But there have also been worrying developments which we cannot ignore and we will elaborate a little bit on that. We are at a time of testing whether the political will exists for real de-escalation and more meaningful political talks and move beyond preparatory talks.
Throughout this period, the UN has been quite active, convening joint technical meetings with opposition experts, seeking to support the efforts of the Astana guarantors on de-escalation, consulting widely including in Moscow and Paris and with many others, and laying the basis for a new round of the Geneva talks - and also having consultations with our colleagues in the European Union. Let me map this out for you and look to where we can go next.
Technical Consultative Process
In the last round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, I did announce the establishment of a technical consultative process - you remember, that was an additional layer that we believe can be very helpful in actually abolishing layers by accelerating the real talks. This technical consultative process was meant to develop relevant options on constitutional and legal issues that would need to be considered anyway and resolved anyway in relation to any proposals and positions put forward in formal sessions. This was designed in fact to help the formal talks to progress more expeditiously, and be better prepared by ensuring that any negotiated transitional political process would enjoy solid technical constitutional and legal foundations. Let me give you one example, some times ago as you will remember, we had a moment of truth in Afghanistan, many years ago, I was around and some of you were. And there was a feeling that nothing was moving forward until at a certain point there was a rush for conference in Bonn. Much of the work had been already prepared. Preparatory work which appears sometimes to be tedious, sometimes not conclusive, was immediately put in action and utilized as homework preparing for the Bonn conference. Well we are in a certain way doing something similar, waiting for the major Geneva conference, God willing.
We made it clear that the consultative process created was technical - as you know everything we do is political but the particular emphasis in this case were technical -, expert and non-binding in nature. It was not designed, and it is not designed to act as a negotiating forum, to take on the political responsibilities of the formal sessions, or to take on itself the Syrian people’s right to determine the constitutional future of the state of Syria. But it is a serious process because it does prepare for this.
You will recall that both the Government and the three opposition invitees to the intra-Syrian talks – those mentioned in 2254 – all agreed, last time, to participate in separate consultations under this consultative process, and indeed we were able to do so separately in the last round for - at least two days.
Since then, there has been a potentially significant new development. On 15 and 16 June, two days ago, opposition experts from the High Negotiations Committee and the Cairo and Moscow platforms convened jointly, together, in the same room, in Geneva at the invitation of the UN within the framework of the consultative process. This was the first time a joint set of UN meetings with the opposition invitees in one room has taken place, and not only for protocol reasons, but substantively discussing during the whole day among them and with us - and we believe we must build on this.
The opposition experts worked to develop joint technical options regarding the schedule and process for drafting a new constitution and its popular approval. They also discussed the principles involved, covering the substance of the so-called living 12 points that we did put forward in round 4. The experts also discussed these issues in the context of a negotiated political transition process within the framework of relevant resolutions of the Security Council.
While such expert meetings are by nature exploratory and non-binding, the joint meeting brought to light welcome similarities and common technical and perhaps even political understanding of various issues, and could potentially be the beginning of greater technical coordination among these three groups and we hope you will be helping us in supporting these three groups to do so in order to show unity.
The participants felt that more work could be even more productive, and my office has, therefore, accordingly invited them to participate next week in a further set of joint meetings in the framework of the consultative process on constitutional and legal issues, ahead of the seventh round of formal intra-Syrian talks, taking place as you know in July.
You will recall that the Government of Syria which was by the way the first to commit to the technical process, communicated to me that it would participate in expert meetings in the framework of technical consultation process during formal sessions of the intra-Syrian talks -- but not outside those formal occasions. I therefore look forward to experts from my team continuing during the 7thround the engagement that began with experts from the Government during the 6th round.
Naturally, the UN remains ready to engage with the Government experts at any mutually convenient time, including before and after formal talks.
Four Baskets of Issues
In my formal invitations to the forthcoming round of the intra-Syrian talks, I encouraged the invitees to prepare actively. I look forward therefore, to them engaging in an intensified set of discussions on issues across all four baskets – governance issues, constitutional issues, electoral issues, counter-terrorism, security governance and medium term confidence-building issues. I hope it will be possible to accelerate the peace talks. I am giving consideration to sharing some of my own thinking on certain issues in order to stimulate the parties.
If the environment is propitious, I am also ready to seek to facilitate direct talks between the Government and the opposition, hopefully unified opposition, in those talks, either at the formal or technical level. This is something that all sides have stated more than ones they want, and I hope conditions are being created that could enable this.
I also believe it would be important to aim for a further round towards end August or early September, in advance of the September General Assembly meeting.
Civil Society Role
Both during and between the upcoming rounds of formal talks and expert meetings, my team will continue to closely engage with the members of the Women’s Advisory Board of Syria and the Civil Society Support Room and listen to their suggestions and practical advice. In particular, my team and I continue to strive to engage with and hear the priorities of more women's organizations, including those working across Syria, inside Syria, during and between rounds of intra-Syria talks.
In this context, I should note that, following the last round round of intra-Syrian talks, we did activate our Civil Society Support Room, which allowed us to consult with more than 50 civil society organizations and experts from all walks of life and different expertise, from both within and outside Syria.
The more we engage with these interlocutors, the more we are convinced that civil society will be critical to preserving and indeed regenerating the social cohesion of a country that for too long has been torn apart by war.
Geneva and Astana Processes
As we advance the overall political effort unfolding under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva, efforts are continuing by the three guarantors to finalize modalities for the implementation of the Astana de-escalation memorandum concluded on 4 May. A meeting of the guarantors is planned for Astana to be in Astana on 4 and 5 July. I plan to be present at that meeting.
With every week that passes, we know it, without a final arrangement for the de-escalation zones being indeed finalized, the fragility of the ceasefire regime and the risk posed by the fragility increases. I am aware of the genuine efforts currently being undertaken to try and overcome the remaining obstacles, as was witnessed by my own team of experts from my own office during the recently held technical-level meeting of the joint working group on de-escalation in Moscow.
The UN team continues to stand ready to provide technical advice, whenever and wherever needed. Because we need a success in Astana, as Astana desperately needs a success in the Geneva political process in order to consolidate what we are all trying to do. Let’s give de-escalation efforts a fair chance to succeed because that is what people are asking in order to bringing the violence further down and enabling confidence-building.
I also express the hope that the discussions aimed at finding a suitable formula for addressing the difficult situation that has emerged in the south of Syria, will also yield positive results.
What Has Been Achieved
As we plan for Geneva intra-Syrian talks and as the Astana guarantors work for de-escalation, let us recall what has been achieved and some of the challenges that are still to be met on the ground.
Since the three guarantor states signed the de-escalation memorandum on 4 May in Astana, violence is clearly down. Hundreds of Syrian lives continue to be spared every week, and many towns have returned to some degree of normalcy.
That is a good general trend, but it is not the same good trend everywhere. In some areas, the fight and violence has been continuing and in fact intensified.
The overall significant improvement of the security situation on the other hand has not, and we have to recognize that, regrettably, yielded equally significant progress on humanitarian access to areas where the needs are the greatest. The support of the ISSG co-chairs and other ISSG members has been helpful, and efforts are continuing. However, let me be honest, much more needs to be done - and urgently - to enable safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all Syrians, wherever they are, particularly in the areas which have been difficult to reach.
Detainees, Abductees, Missing People
Let me also stress the importance of moving forward on the issue of detainees, abductees, missing people and on the important issue of humanitarian demining. Let me express here my appreciation to UNMAS for its continuing engagement in this regard.
Daesh in Retreat
We note that the fight against terrorism appears to be proceeding with Daesh under pressure and in retreat in various locations in Syria. The same time incident between the international anti-ISIL coalition and forces of the Government of Syria and its allies, including the downing of a Syrian military plane, have taken place.
As I see it, the ideal trajectory over the coming two weeks would be: progress in Astana on 4-5 July; then a further set of joint technical expert meetings with the opposition groups in the same week; and then a continued discussion and dialogue hopefully among international stakeholders (including at the G20 Summit in Hamburg on 7-8 July), in which Syria can not be avoided as a subject. And all this in support of both the Astana de-escalation efforts and the intra-Syrian Geneva-based political process. I hope that a combination of these elements would help shape an environment conducive for the next round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva in the months to come.
Press Conferences, 15 & 20 May 2017
The following are the transcripts of the press conferences by the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (SdM) in Geneva on 15 and 20 May 2017. They opened and closed the 6th round of intra-Syrian talks. The talks were more "businesslike" than previous Rounds and there was an important departure into an expert level of consultations to clarify and facilitate the main negotiating process. SdM's main points about the achievements of the Round are highlighted in red.
SdM: Let me read to you some comments and then of course I will take some questions, so don’t be intimidated by the formality of my comments.
Today we concluded a sixth round of the intra-Syrian talks. You must have seen and you have seen, it was a short round and this was intentional. We wanted a focused, concentrated round to actually deepen the process further and I think we have done that. As we seek to facilitate a political process as per Resolution 2254, during the round number five, the previous one, we discussed in parallel all four baskets of the agenda. Well this agenda remains and is the agenda of the talks.
However, for quite a while actually, we have noticed from all concerned, in one form or the other, about the fact that they felt there was a genuine need to ensure a stronger legal and constitutional foundation for any negotiated political transition process, and at all stages of such a process, so we got the message. Therefore, I took this time the decision to establish a process of expert meetings and to invite the parties to participate. Then, in order to stimulate them, I did indicate to the parties that I was going to share with them, which I did, an internal UN paper. The purpose was never to negotiate the paper, which was supposed not to become an object of negotiation for the Treaty of Versailles. It was basically an internal paper to give them an indication in what direction our vision could have been.
In fact rather than spend a lot of time, although we did spend some time negotiating or discussing the internal paper, which we had proposed, we actually moved beyond that and quite effectively beyond the paper, simply focused on what we wanted to have, what I decided, as I told you to have. And we simply started a process of separate experts meetings on legal and constitutional issues chaired by the OSE, the UN experts.
I am pleased that this process has indeed began. It began yesterday, we had only four days so we had to start after some preparation, and it began yesterday and continued indeed today and I look forward to push this additional element forward and enriching through that the UN facilitated intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. These expert meetings obviously, it is clear, do not aim and do not replace the main negotiating track. The intra-Syrian talks are focused on all four baskets and they are meant to assist, this process is meant to assist, the formal sessions to enable discussions at the political level to proceed more smoothly. Expert meetings can help identify complex issues, identify options and so on. We are not planning or aiming through this to draft a new constitution. We are not planning or aiming through this to draft a new constitution for Syria. This has to be done by the Syrians.
We are rather trying and we intend to pursue trying to lay the ground for the Syrians, to do exactly that in the context of an overall political solution which in terms is in the context, as you know, of Resolution 2254. So, because this was a short round and because it took us some days to ensure that everyone had reach a sufficient level of comfort to add this new important element to our work, we did not have the physical time for in-depth discussions in the formal discussions, in the formal sessions, to cover all four baskets and address the four baskets. But we did discuss several substantive issues of key concern to the parties and we intend to move ahead on all four baskets during the coming rounds while the new process of having expert meetings will also continue as I described.
Let me also note that the real efforts, and I have to admit there were real efforts, were made in this round to have experts from the Cairo and the Moscow platforms to attend the UN hosted expert meetings, which I just referred to you, with the main opposition delegation announced on the 11th of February. This was not yet possible, they are still been discussing and negotiating about it but we will continue to push for this effort since this would send, in our opinion, a positive signal that the opposition groups, at least at the level of the technical discussions, are willing and capable to work together.
We therefore urge the opposition sides to continue their efforts in this regard and our hope is, that in fact through this, there could be an additional element of unification of the opposition when we talk about very technical but important issues. I would also like to thank once again, and let me say it because I believe strongly in it, the Women's Advisory Board for providing timely and incisive contributions, even to this round, in fact very much to this round, which helped shape our own thinking and how to approach the talks.
We facilitated exchanges of views between them and the members of the ISSG in the margins of the talks and I would also like to indicate that next week, not here in Geneva but nearby, the Office of the Special Envoy will be promoting and pushing and working together with the civil society, within the context of the civil society support room, I'm sure you're familiar with that.
I would also like to thank the regional and international stakeholders who have been here, and have been actively involved and I'm going to see them very soon, for the close involvement in this round of talks, which certainly facilitated our work and that of the Syrian parties. Last night I went to Mont Pèlerin to brief the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres in detail on the talks, and he, you should know, continues to follow them very closely. For him Syria is a priority, and to appeal to all Syrians to support this very difficult but important process of intra-Syrian talks.
As you may also know, I had also today a constructive and timely trilateral meeting with senior representatives of the United States and Russia early this afternoon. We discussed the talks and beyond. I plan to brief the Security Council early next week as a customary and as a customary and as my duty I will be consulting with the Secretary General on dates for the next round of talks. Together with my team we also feel that it might be very useful to have an internal review of where we stand because things are moving but we want them to move even more deeply and more intensely and incrementally. We also feel the need to do an internal review so we can stand and actually better approach the next round as effectively as we can.
Based on all this, I would be letting the invitees know what preparatory steps can be taken before the next round of talks which will happen as soon as we have, in a position of doing so, and frankly and the expert process and I think sometime in June, but I will not commit a date at this stage due to many elements that are taking place. We will let you know. Let me add one last point which is something we are noticing and I hope the participants are noticing, although sometimes they feel differently, this round of talks there is less rhetoric, more business-like atmosphere and we make incremental progress. Our goal remains clear, a negotiated framework agreement and a negotiated political transition process as per [resolution] 2254. One step at a time, thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Special Envoy thank you, how do you comment on Mr. al-Jaafari saying today that any of the four baskets has not been discussed during this round, where as you and Mr. Ramzy were saying that you will try to accelerate at least one or two of the four baskets, and you will try to move in parallel. My second question, is about the Russians, do think that since the process of Astana, they are helping or they are standing in the way of these talks? Thank you.
SdM: Well, first of all let me say that I think I indicated it when I was reading, that we have been focusing this time, in particular, on one incremental progress, or if you want process. And therefore, four days, four days is not a lot of time in order to make everyone feeling comfortable with novelties, and this is a novelty. So we agreed with every side that in fact in view of this, we did not have the time to go deeply into all four baskets, and that we intend to do so at the next round, but what we did is deliverable, and therefore no one disagreed that we didn't have more time to do so.
Regarding the Russian Federation, I must say that as far as this round has been concerned and perhaps I can say for all the rounds, but since you asked me for this round, the Deputy Foreign Minister Gatilov, was extremely supportive to what we have been trying to do, and it is not a secret that, I think, he must have had meetings with the government delegation in particular, but also with others, in order to ensure that this round would be productive. I believe that there is an interest in the guarantors of the Astana initiatives, that there should also be a progress in Geneva. One, because the Astana initiative is still fragile, let’s be frank, and we don't want it to be fragile, we want the de-escalation to take place and be effective. And therefore, if it is fragile and is still moving in the right direction but needs to be consolidated, any movement on the political process will be, in a way, mutually supportive and frankly for us too, if we have talks in the middle of massive barrel bombings and any other types of major battles, that is not helping the political process, so the two things are generally, mutually supportive.
Q: It seems that the two main parties did not value the interests of the format that you launched, as you did several times here, how would you interpret that, and is it for you a move aside or a move forward, or a move backward? Because they tend not to understand the format as you do.
SdM:You must have been covering other political international negotiations and debates; you know very well that there is always the possibility, especially by one side or the other, to actually want to give a little bit of a different interpretation. I base myself on facts, and the fact is we have a process, and the fact is we had already four meetings of this process, that is what matters, then of course we all have the right and I will never oppose the possibility of qualifying or commenting on what is your understanding and your hopes about it. The fact is we have it. Thank you.
Q: I am a journalist living inside Syria, so what we feel inside is different from what you feel here in Switzerland or the rest of the opposition outside Syria. Therefore the time that passes would cost us blood and losses in lives. In parallel with these negotiations, there was a US aggression on the Syria army, which was fighting ISIL, the US and European siege (sanctions) continues. I asked a year ago about the fate of this siege, and when they are going to lift this siege and the forced measures on the Syria people, and you promised to discuss this issue with them, what happened in regards to this subject.
A while ago, you said that you spoke with high level US officials; did you discuss their crime of their aggression on the Syrian army?
SdM: I'm not going to comment on how you qualify the events which have been taking place, what I would like to say is that we did discuss with everyone in the present whatever the military events have been affecting people in Syria, but you see I would really like not to comment on it. Every day, every day and you are the one who can testify it, you actually rightly said so. Every day in the last four years, there is something related to the people of Syria, in Syria, which is connected to a military activity, so if I had to comment on each one of them, I would not be able to.
Secondly, I am not going to comment on it at this moment for two reasons, I would like to focus, if possible, at least on this press conference on the talks and actually on what we have been discussing at the talks. Three, I don't have enough elements at this stage to make any comment anyway, but thank you.
Q: Mr. de Mistura mentioned that the experts committee which is going to start its work with the opposition and the government in the presence of UN experts who are going to head the cession. He mentioned that we do not aim at drafting a new constitution for Syria, but Syrians are the one to draft the constitution, and we would pave the way for Syrians to find a political solution, the question is, what will be the role of the experts, whether it is the formulation of specific constitutional provisions or general lines of the Syrian constitution, and are there specific ideas in which foreign experts from the UN are involved?
SdM: You are quite correct in quoting what I just said; it is exactly what is the intention of our decision to establish this group of experts. I think we should leave it also to them to establish the best way we can proceed. We are meeting separately, we are not yet in a combined environment yet, even this is proximity, remember, but every meeting it is chaired by us, by our experts, and it is on the basis of our own meeting with each of the different group of experts, to then establish how to proceed further in the preparation. We are not going to draft the new constitution, it is very clear, but this can help a lot, believe me.
Q: We started this process a couple years ago with sort of a timeline of months, in which we are going to have elections and constitutional development, and that seems to be junked, and we also had questions about sieges and trying to get detainees deals and ceasefires, and these things are rumbling and rumbling with no apparent progress and this latest round, it sort gives the impression of now getting mind in a kind of subcommittee and small print, rather than making a great leap forward towards actually some sort of real progress and real conclusions. So can you give us any reassurance about things moving ahead and a timeline for example, how we really junked this timeline, could you give a time when we can actually see a conclusion?
SdM: History is not written by, I learned it long time ago, sadly, especially in a conflict environment, written by timelines that we setup artificially, they could be a target, a dream, a wish, a day for us to try to aim at, even conferences we decide on a certain day for a conference and then events, fighting or explosions will then postpone it or cancel it, so I don't think we should be focusing on that. It is true we have, and we will have, and constantly use some type of timelines in order to be able to push ourselves and those who are participated to the meetings to actually see that there is an obligation to which they are committing themselves. But facts on the ground will, and can and unfortunately will probably still change whatever plans we have. Meanwhile we have to continue working, preparing for what, for the moment when the actual environment will be ready for the real discussion about how we get a political solution. Example, you know that we had in the memorandum in Astana, there is one or two dates which have been mentioned, they have been doing it based on experience, that you have to have some timing on which you will then aim, but it does not mean that on that very date there would be an outcome, we are in the most intractable, so far, conflict of recent history.
But we're not going be passive and even small incremental moves, you will see when the solution will be arriving, you will be, I hope with us saying, well it is good that you had that expert new mechanism, because by the time we would be already to actually discussing constitution, all that would have been already put aside or prepared, that is, plus, any momentum provides some type of hope that we are not just waiting for the golden day, but we actually working for it.
Q: When would you be able to find a unified delegation representing the opposition, which is your main task in accordance to resolution 2254?
SdM: I am not sure that my main task is to unify the opposition. What is my task is to invite all the parts which are mentioned there, and they are clearly mentioned by name you know, and to ensure that they come and they participate.
Now the Government has been constantly complaining that they are not dealing with a unified opposition at the same time sometimes they are also telling me why you're not inviting these, why you're not inviting them, which slightly contradict the original wish of having a unified [opposition]. So, what I can do and I have been doing and even using this new process to try to stimulate it, is to actually push for a reasonable understanding of an umbrella in which the three components, according to [Resolution] 2254 could have at least some type of common line.
I think it is possible and I think they are talking and I think we may be getting there. This time, there were serious discussions in the hotels and here. Not yet but it takes some time perhaps.
Q: Mr. de Mistura, you talked about the committees, that they would continue during meetings of the upcoming rounds, does that mean stopping discussion on the other four baskets, until the end talking about this subject, or would the work continue in parallel with the other baskets?
SdM: Thank you for asking this question because obviously I didn't clarify that. No no, the four baskets and the official discussions will, and have to continue but we do have now a new process which can and should take place while the talks take place and perhaps even between them, so that we actually go much more business-like, especially on a subject that we believe covers every other subject which is the constitutional ideas and issues, but thank you for asking me this because obviously I was not clear. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we move forward, Thank you.
SdM: I have here with me Stephanie Koury, who is our director in the office we have in Damascus, and on my right side Ambassador Ramzi, who has just been back from a short mission to Damascus.
This is basically a preparatory meeting in order for us to try to give you an idea in what direction we're going, and basically also give you some ideas on when we can also interact again, because I think it's only fair that you should know this is a little bit different than the other meetings. First thing to tell you is that we are having all the delegations coming, all of them. When you say all, that means those mentioned according to 2254, and you're familiar with it and basically as we have had in the last rounds of talks.
The agenda - it is not true what I read that there is no agenda - the agenda is the one we achieved already and we agreed upon, already in the previous two rounds, in which we agreed on four baskets, as you remember, all of them important, all of them in parallel.
The intention, however this time, is to go a little bit more deeply and actually be more business-like, both in our meetings and in the way we hope we can get some progress. Even the rooms will be smaller, the type of meetings will be a little bit more interactive and proactive, and more frequent. We will also choose some subjects to be focused on, in order to be able to get more movement from each of the baskets or some of the baskets in particular, that will depend on our discussions with the delegations.
There is no doubt that this meeting was urgent also in view of the Astana memorandum. We are working in tandem, in a way. Of course if Astana did not exist, we will still have the Geneva talks, you can imagine, but in view of the fact that the Astana memorandum has been signed by three major players, and that we witnessed it and that the people of Syria and ourselves want a de-escalation in the conflict, we would like to be able to make sure that meanwhile the two are working in some form of thing. I give an example: everybody's been telling us and we agree, that any type of reduction of violence, in this case de-escalation, cannot be sustained unless there is a political horizon in one direction or the other. That is exactly what we are pushing for.
Now there are dates which are mentioned in the Astana memorandum, one is getting very close to now, the 19, 20th, so you can see the timing coinciding somewhat. Then we have another one in early June, and in fact our intention is to have the continuation of this round of talks, continuation as if we had one moving and then waiting for a moment, due to Ramadan by the way as well, and logistics, during Ramadan continuation.
The targeted end date of this is around Saturday or Friday depending on how we get to a certain point. The idea therefore is to re-launch the continuation of this round, sometime during Ramadan, we will then indicate the proper date.
Now, regarding logistics, due to the fact that these meetings are, this round of meetings, particularly focus on trying to get a little bit more into business-like approach, we will not have stakeouts, as we have been used to have. We may have them again at the next round, but trying to go a little bit more into a business-like approach to be available for eventual stakeouts, if and when we deem on my side and my team that being the case. That will also, in a way, try to apply also to the players, the participants, of course. We will urge them not to talk to the media every five minutes or every time there is a meeting, but that doesn't mean that this will work. So I will leave it to their own judgement. And you [should] know that Alessandra would be able to brief you: we are having a slightly different arrangement in terms of stakeout which is a little bit more ecological.
I will stop there at this stage, because this is simply a curtain raiser, I intend definitely to give you the opportunity of having an idea on where we will be by Friday or Saturday and then, as I said, I am keeping my hands free for intervening, if we require or feel that there is a need for it.
Q: You mentioned Astana and the connection with the Geneva process, and Ambassador Ramzi just came back from Damascus, and we could hear the President Assad say to Belarussian television that the Geneva meeting is only for the medias, and that the only one which counts is Astana. So what kind of commitments can you feel from that party to the talks with that kind of quotes, and I don’t know whether Ambassador Ramzi could elaborate on the kind of connection he had in Damascus with the government in that regard?
SdM: I will give the floor to Ambassador Ramzi, because he has just returned and he made some declarations himself in Damascus. I would not obviously want to comment or getting into any type of comment regarding declarations made by President Assad. What I can say simply [is] that his delegation has arrived, and they are empowered to serious discussions and they are here to work. So, Ambassador Ramzi.
Ramzy: Thank you Special Envoy. As the Special Envoy indicated, during my trip to Damascus, we confirmed the agenda, the four baskets and we will move in parallel, that is very clear, but we had also said earlier that it is possible that we can accelerate one or two of the baskets, and they do not disagree with that. What I heard in Damascus is that they will deal constructively with whatever proposals we will put forward.
I have no reason to doubt that. I think we will see that when we will meet with themtomorrow. They are engaged in the Geneva process, they have indicated that they want to work with us on the political process as outlined in Security Council resolution 2254, I think that has been absolutely clear in my meetings. So I do not see that the government is not going to take the kind of attitude that we feel is necessary to keep the political process moving ahead. Thank you.
Q: Mr. de Misutra, during the previous rounds, and up to this moment, there have been no direct meetings between the Syrian opposition delegation and the Syrian government delegation, I wonder, when would be a direct meeting between the two delegations to directly discuss the political process?
SdM: I did refer to it last time when we met some of your colleagues. Of course, for a mediator, the ideal is reaching the point when the two sides or the different sides can meet in the same room and the mediation takes place between the two, but it is also true that when there are still substantial differences, and no one can deny there are still substantial differences, the best method is still proximity talks.
Do not forget, we did have an occasion where everyone sat in a major room in this building to signify, in fact, their interest eventually to be able to be in the same room at the end of the day. But at this stage, unless I see any opportunity that leads me to actually reach that point, I’m still going to apply the golden rule of the mediator among people who still disagree, which is proximity talks.
Q:Monsieur l'envoyé spécial, est-ce que vous pensez que la reconquête de Damas qui va bientôt avoir lieux, le fait que le régime ait reconquis Alep, change sa position justement dans ces discussions de proximité vis à vis des autres groupes, et est-ce que l’intention aussi de discuter du fait que ces zones où l’on va installer petit à petit la paix ne puissent pas être vérifiées par un organe des Nations Unies? Est-ce que vous allez discuter de ce fait durant ces proximity talks? Merci.
SdM: Avant tout, tout ce qui se passe sur le terrain a un impact sur les négociations ou sur les discussions politiques. Il n’y a pas de questions sur ça. La preuve c’est que dans le passé nous avons eu des développements sur le terrain qui ont immédiatement eu un impact négatif ou positif, ça dépend du point de vue et surtout ça dépend des circonstances. Dans le cas spécifique, je peux vous dire qu’évidemment on [ne] va pas ignorer ce qui se passe sur le terrain et on ne peut pas l’ignorer. Deuxièmement, je ne peux pas vous dire quel impact cela va avoir parce que ça va dépendre de la réaction des différentes délégations.
Sur la question des “de-escalation areas”, je ne sais pas comment l’appeler moi-même en français, nous avons quand même beaucoup insisté sur le fait qu’il y a quand même une “labor division” entre nous et Astana. Astana, il y a trois pays importants qui ont [de]l’influence, qui ont aussi la volonté, la possibilité d’insister pour qu'il y ait une vraie “de-escalation”, qui se sont engagés à Astana, entièrement, signant un papier, un mémorandum, pour qu’il y ait un progrès. Et ils ont un timetable. Je ne pense pas, et je n’ai aucune intention d’interférer avec ça, au contraire je pousse avec la communauté internationale pour que cet accord puisse devenir opérationnel sur la base des réunions à Astana, et s’il y a des difficultés cela devrait être discuté à Astana et dans le contexte d’Astana. Comme ça, chacun se sent engagé dans ce que l’on a promis ou essayé de promettre de faire, donc je m’arrête là pour le moment sur ça.
Q: Also on Astana, and also on this de-escalation zone, how do you see the idea of the participation of foreign troops in order to assure those areas? How does this fit in your political process here? Thank you.
SdM: Decisions regarding international monitoring presence and observation are decisions which go far beyond my own thoughts. In other words is not up to me to suggest or promote that. It is up to the Security Council on the basis of recommendations coming from the Secretary-General. What I can say is that any type of decision that may be taken by the Security Council, eventually, in order to ensure that a de-escalation becomes real, is something that we would certainly look at. We have had in the past, in other conflicts, the international presence of observers but it was decided by the Security Council.
Q:Mr de Mistura, sometimes you ask about the American role in the political process. Do you feel satisfied today or now about the engagement of the American administration in the political process here in Geneva?
SdM: The word “satisfied” is something that one should not always use the with a mediator because the mediator will only be satisfied once the mediation has produced an outcome. But I am encouraged by the increasing engagement, increasing interest by the US administration in finding a de-escalation, a reduction of violence and in the possibility of a comprehensive implementation of [Resolution] 2254. I am, and therefore we are in touch with the US administration. Myself [I] have been in Washington more than once and I know we have been discussing with them in Astana and here. So from that point of view that would be my answer.
Q:Special Envoy, Kurds are part of all the delegations you invited to the talks. But [we] can see [that] Kurdish national council is part of the HNC. According to my information, they sent you a letter regarding demands of Kurds for the future of Syria. Could you tell us please if you got any letter from the Kurds or from their government delegation on the vision for the Kurds for the new Syria or [for] the future of Syria from the government or from the opposition? Thank you.
SdM: I am not going to elaborate on the type of letters I am getting. You have to understand that and you seem to be more informed than I am so anyway it is probably a rhetorical question. We are reading every letter we receive and I certainly take those letters seriously, I will stop there. You should know that in the delegation of HNC I have been assured there are Kurdish representatives and that the Kurdish community in Syria, made by the Syrians is an important community that no one of us should ever ignore. Thank you.
Q:Good afternoon Mr de Mistura, just to pick up on both points that were brought up by my colleague here and Laurent who mentioned the comments that Mr Assad made on Belarus television. There are questions of course about when are you going to get the two sides together. I mean, when are you going to show some concrete evidence that proves that what Mr Assad reportedly said is actually not true, that there is actually relevance to this process? And I would also like you to please elaborate, how concerned you are about how events on the ground may be going faster than you are in the sense that we have seen some evacuations from inside Damascus for example and that the entire capital appears like accepting fully the return of the control of the government. So why continue with the Geneva process?
SdM: You are questioning your own engagement into it. Anyway, let me be serious about it, first of all President Assad has a tendency of answering questions with questions himself when you see the interview, so I will do the same if I may. Why would you think that President Assad is interested in sending 15, 18 people led by a very senior and highly experienced diplomat like ambassador Jaafari who is the same one and sending him to Geneva for several rounds and coming today in order to discuss issues on the political process if he did not believe in what Ambassador Ramzi just told you, that they are interested in, and potentially involved into the political process? So I would just ask you that question.
Q (follow up): As Laurent mentioned, he (President Assad) said the reason he is doing it is for the cameras so that is the answer he is giving. What do you say?
SdM:I would say that I am aware much more that what the Syrian delegation says to the camera and in the meetings that they have done so far with us on the four baskets, and I want to believe and hope in the next day's meetings, are much more substantive than just those general comments that are made for the cameras. But facts will prove it.
You raised about the fact on the ground, I think I replied to a certain degree that the facts on the ground do have an impact. I cannot tell you today what impact will they have and they are having, because we have not yet started this round. In the past, they did [have an impact] and we are taking them into account to, in our own discussions. That is all I can tell you at this stage.
Q:Is there any sanction, any punishment if the Syrian government is turning up here, just as a smokescreen to cover what they are doing on the ground, they can just keep coming, you are acting in good faith, but if they are not, there not much that the world can do about it. The other question I wanted to ask you is, you said that we need to aim for a political horizon to sustain the de-escalation and you hoped to reach a certain point this week, and you also mentioned possible need for Security Council involvement so what will we see this week, have you got some goal in mind, when the Security Council get back involved in the Geneva process?
SdM:Now, you're going a little bit further than what would be a curtain raiser, and it’s your duty and your job. And my job is trying to do my job during this week, so can I elaborate on that at the end of this week?
Q: Just a follow up, it seems that if Mr. Jaafari is turning up here, just to keep the cameras rolling and to provide a smokescreen, he can do that, I don’t know quite what words to use on life T.V, but you are being involved in this process and unwittingly, been slightly used for diplomatic purposes, does not that bother you, if that is what is going on?
SdM:First of all, if being a mediator and trying to find common points is being used, I think I would accept that, because the alternative is no discussion, no hope, no political horizon, just waiting for facts on the ground to take place, and that I think is something that the mediator has to take into account. Secondly, I think I am also, perhaps, using the fact that there is a resolution 2254, which has engaged everyone, and there is no alternative, as far as we believe, to simply facts on the ground, because facts of the ground alone would not produce the outcome in Syria.
So we continue pushing, I will not elaborate on what I expect at the end of this week. Everything is connected, there are big important meetings taking place, they will be taking place, there are discussions taking place in other capitals, they do have an impact on what we discussed, but I'm not going to elaborate now.
Q: Good afternoon Mr de Mistura, since you are referring to 2254 I'd like your views and Mr Ramzi's as well. In the months of April alone, there were between 23 to 30 attacks on medical facilities, we are a few days before the World Health Assembly with the world health community will be in the Palais [des Nations]. What is your message, why is this carnage continuing and why is it getting not sufficient attention from world leaders?
SdM: The attacks on the medical facilities will be remembered as one of the stains horrors and justices, outrages, of this conflict. This has been a pattern and been a regular pattern and has been an increasing pattern, even recently. So I am convinced that the WHO, which has been the case in the past, will strongly refer to it. We are and every time we have a meeting both at the CTF or HTF or bilateral meetings, we are raising it very strongly. One day, history will judge even more harshly what has been the worst case scenario in terms of protection and respect of medical facilities, thank you.
News In Brief
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27 June 2017: The FARQ rebels in Colombia have been fully disarmed. At a ceremony to mark the achievement, Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the UN Mission in Colombia, announced that the ceasefire in the country had been observed by both sides with very few exceptions.
UN Appoints New Youth Envoy
20 June: 2017: Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka is the new envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth. She succeeds Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan. The announcement from the UN noted that the "success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on empowering young people as rights-holders, agents of change and torchbearers."
The UN said that Wickramanayake had "represented and motivated global youth development on an international level since the age of 21, notably during high-level United Nations initiatives including the declaration of World Youth Skills Day." She had "also played a key role in transforming the youth development sector at the national level, notably through the creation of a large movement for civic and political engagement of young people named 'Hashtag Generation'.
Born in 1990, Ms. Wickramanayake is reading for Master of Development Studies, at the University of Colombo and holds a Bachelor degree in Science, from the same university.
Wickramanayake is presently working as an officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service. She has previously served as Secretary to the Secretary General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka (2016-2017), Project Officer-Youth, One-Text Initiative in Sri Lanka (2015-2016), Member and Youth Lead Negotiator, International Youth Task Force of the World Conference on Youth 2014 (2013-2014) and Official Youth Delegate to the United Nations, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development (2012-2013). She was furthermore a Senator in the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament (2013-2015).
3 June 2017: Horst Koehler, former president of Germany and IMF Managing Director, will be the Secretary-General's new personal envoy for Western Sahara, in charge of restarting talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement in the former Spanish colony. Morocco claimed the mineral-rich territory when Spain withdrew from it in 1975 and fought the local independence movement, the Polisario Front, until a 1991 UN mediated ceasefire. Plans for a referendum of the indigenous Sahrawi people fell afoul of Morocco's bid to include immigrants from the territory long settled within its borders.
In 2016, relations between the United Nations and Morocco became rocky after former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon used the word "occupation" to describe the country's military presence in Western Sahara. Dozens of UN staff working for the MINURSO, the UN mission in the territory, were expelled. Tensions also increased following an armed face-off between Moroccan and Polisario forces in the remote Guerguerat area near the Mauritania border. Both sides withdrew their forces earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the UN reports that tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria face hunger because the World Food Program has run out of funds for its program there. It has appealed for $7.9 million to keep the program going.
2 JUNE 2017: Aïchatou Mindaoudou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the Security Council today of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire where the United Nations is due to end its operation later this month after a 13-year presence.
She reported that in December 2016 the country's three main political parties had participated in legislative elections for the first time in the country’s political history. However, major problems remained. On 22 and 23 May 2017, former combatants whose salaries had not been paid had raised barricades and paralysed economic activity in the capital. In another incident, soldiers had attacked civilians, underlining the need for an immediate Government response.
Although much had been achieved since the mission’s deployment in 2004, challenges persisted in relation to the fragile peace, transitional justice and the training of troops. There was an urgent need to improve discipline within the armed forces and to ensure the full reintegration of former combatants into society. It was also critical to end impunity for criminal human rights violations.
Among the speakers in the Council was Marcel Amon-Tanoh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire. He noted his country's election as a non-permanent Council member that morning in the General Assembly. The Government was aware of the challenges it faced. In particular, it had to complete the building of an effective and professional army, a process that had recently been upset. Vowing that the withdrawal of UNOCI (on 30 June) would not slow the pace of national reconciliation and growth, he pledged to continue to work closely with the United Nations, and requested that the Organization provide its country team with additional resources.
25 May 2017: Espen Barth Eide, UN special envoy on Cyprus thinks the leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus are "far apart" on holding a final peace summit next month to try and reunify the island as a federation. After a second day of meeting separately with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, he told the Press that getting agreement on the summit was "proving to be very difficult." Both leaders want a summit in Geneva, but the details of structuring the summit were proving difficult. That was “sad,” he said, “because for the first time in living memory there is a will by both leaders to actually dedicate themselves to a final conference on all issues."
A key hurdle is the 35,000 Turkish troops in the northern part of the island where the Turkish minority has been concentrated since the murderous communal troubles of 1974. Greek Cypriots want the troops gone as part of a reunification deal but the Turkish Cypriots, backed by Turkey, consider them essential to security and to any peace deal. The Greek Cypriot position is that the summit should agree on that issue before proceeding to others; the Turkish Cypriots want all issues on the table at once.
25 May 2017: David Shearer, the Secretary-General's Special Representative (SRSG) in South Sudan told the Security Council by video-link yesterday that it should back a common strategy to advance the peace process amidst the confused political process in the country. Speaking as head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), he said that the "unity of purpose will send the best signal to South Sudan's political leaders to focus first and foremost on the plight of their citizens." Noting that governments in the region have "significant influence" he also called for a "coherent and unified regional position" to help end the three-year war.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April 2016, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July in the same year. The situation now is somewhat hopeful following the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by President Salva Kiir and the call for a national dialogue; however, the main rebel group (SPLM-IO) has charged that attacks were continuing in Eastern and Central parts of the country.
It is going to be difficult to judge the effectiveness of the ceasefire because seasonal rains are due to make most roads in the country impassable and reduce the scale of military operations for the next four months. The rains will also impede humanitarian efforts, for the small airstrips used to bring in supplies to much of the country will become unusable. Mr Shearer condemned "the unacceptable levels of violence that continue to be directed toward aid workers." They faced detention, threats, arrests, assault and killings.
24 May 2017, Sana’a - The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, during a 3-day visit to Sana’a discussed how to prevent the spread of military activities with political leaders from Ansar’ Allah and the General People’s Congress and Representatives of other political parties. They also discussed how to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nation-wide. He also met with members of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security and representatives of civil society organizations to discuss current political challenges, security concerns, the economic crisis and recent outbreak of cholera.
Mr. Ahmed drew the attention of political parties to the attack on his convoy on 22 May as he travelled from the airport to the UN compound. He reminded them that local authorities are responsible for the safety of all UN personnel in the country and urged them to investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and prevent any such incidents in the future.
The Special Envoy’s visit to Sana’a, follows visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar where he met with government officials as part of his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. He also met with senior World Bank officials to discuss the growing food insecurity and economic crisis in Yemen.
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