Syria

Transcript of Press Stakeout by Mr. Geir O. Pedersen, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Following his Briefing to the Security Council, 27 January 2022

Thank you, Jenifer. Good to see you, as I said I am impressed that you are still around after what must have been a very long day. In my briefing to the Council today, I am afraid, you will see that there was nothing dramatically new. I sort of again emphasized what my message is, three priorities: continue to work on the Constitutional Committee, with the challenges that we are facing there, working on the step-for-step approach, and as you know I have had several meetings in Geneva, bilaterally, with key interlocutors, and as I informed the Council, I will continue to work on that, and then of course the importance of confidence-building measures.

It will not be a surprise to you that still my biggest challenge is the deep mistrust between the Syrian parties, but also between the international actors, and of course what we are seeing now in Europe and the discussions between the US and Russia, between Russia and NATO, all of this of course, whether we like it or not, will also have an impact on the file that I am working on.

I said that the status quo is not acceptable, we need to now be able to move out of the status quo, both on the political track but also because of the economy and humanitarian challenges, and you heard me repeating that many times that nine out of 10 living in poverty and now more than 14 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and I am saying that the Syrian society is broken, we need to start the process of repairing.

I have also emphasized, but let me repeat this, that we are now at the stage of the conflict where no one side can dictate the outcome of the conflict, the Syrian government cannot, obviously the opposition cannot, the Turks cannot, the Arabs cannot, the Russians cannot, the Iranians cannot, and the US cannot. There needs to be a new kind of cooperation to be able to move this process forward.

Then obviously I addressed what is happening in Hasakah, with the ISIL attack and as you know there will also then be a briefing tomorrow to the Council on this.

I think I will stop there and take questions.

Question: Two questions, first have you got any further information on what’s happening with the prison takeover and recapturing near Hasakah? And secondly, the Russian Deputy Ambassador said that the Syrian government was ready to return to a new round of consultations, talks on drafting a new constitution, is that encouraging? Do you see progress perhaps towards that kind of meeting in the coming month or two?

Mr. Pedersen: Yes, I am hopeful that it will be possible to have the seventh round sometime maybe, hopefully, during February, there are some ideas that we are now exchanging, and I am hope that with the support of Russia and Iran but also others that it will be possible to move this process forward. And then it is my hope that it will be possible to have regular meetings throughout the spring, so that it will not be a one off, but we meet in March, we meet in April, in May and hopefully also in June, and that there will be some real substantial discussions on the Constitutional Committee so that next time I brief you hopefully I can say it is no longer a disappointment but we actually have seen some real progress moving forward on that.

On Hasakah, just to say that I understand that the story is still developing, but it seems that the SDF is now by and large I understand in control of the area. So, what we have seen is the largest Daesh attack since it was territorially defeated so this is really a major event, I think we should not have been surprised, we have been warning about this for quite some time that we are seeing increased Daesh activities and of course it is also linked to the continuation of the crisis in Syria.

Question: You talked about new steps, economically and politically, could you elaborate on that? Because I think a lot of Syrians worry that this will be another process that will take years and nothing will come out, you also talked in the Security Council about what you called - that there is no shift in the front line, this conflict will not be ended through force - but do parties to the conflict believe in that? Do they believe that they are not going to win this war and that they need to go through serious negotiations?

Mr. Pedersen: My understanding is the following, and that is, there is now I think a consensus among the key actors that the military phase of the conflict is over and as I said that no side can dictate the outcome of this conflict, and therefore there needs to be negotiations, and obviously what I am trying to do with the Constitutional Committee is to move that forward, and the step-for-step - and I said all along that the Constitutional Committee by itself cannot solve this conflict, we need to address other issues. And I then highlighted some of these other issues that we need to bring to the table, and I have said that this is now up to the parties and the international community to see if they are willing to put issues on the table, all of them need to put something on the table, that will enable us to start to build a little bit of trust and to move forward. Are we guaranteed success? Absolutely not, are we to judge from the soon to be 11 years of conflict, I can understand both the cynicism and the skepticism, but my job is to try and to move this process forward, and I will do whatever I can but I need the support of course both from the international community and from the parties to be able for this to move forward in a manner that would help to ease the suffering for the Syrian people.

Question: You mentioned that you were not surprised by what happened in Hasakah, and you have warned about this, what do you think are the main factors that led to this threat? And what do you think should be done to prevent the re-emergence of ISIS in Syria?

Mr. Pedersen: As you know I have been appealing to the international community to have concerted international cooperation in respect of international humanitarian law to fight UN-listed terrorist groups, and I think this is what we need to focus on to be able to move that forward.

Thank you.