Transcript of Stakeout by Michael Contet, Acting Chief of Staff, Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, 24 February 2017

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Good evening,

Today the Special Envoy de Mistura has started discussing how the process and the efforts he started can now move forward on all aspects of these issues identified in SCR 2254. Following yesterday’s welcoming speech that he delivered in the room behind me, we have now entered in depth meetings with the Syrian invitees.

This morning and this afternoon respectively, the SE had very structured meetings with the Ambassador Jaafari and delegation, and Mr. Hariri and delegation.

In these meetings, the Special Envoy exchanged views and assessments with his interlocutors on yesterday’s opening ceremony. He also made detailed proposals on how the talks could proceed in order to facilitate substantive discussions with a view towards genuine negotiations.

The Special Envoy is continuing a wide range of consultations as the effort moves forward. He is reflecting on the outcomes today and expects to have further contacts tomorrow.

He continues to underscore that this will be a long and difficult process and that early public breakthroughs should not be expected.

At the same time, he is so far satisfied that in a short space of time, the parties have shown their readiness to sit in one room, and he has had the opportunity for some initial in depth exchanges.
Now Special Envoy de Mistura is planning to hold more meetings with the representatives of the Moscow and Cairo platforms, to discuss how they can best contribute. These meetings will be taking place over the weekend. We are also planning further encounters with the delegations that the Special Envoy met today. We will endeavour to inform you about how this will be unfolding. I understand from my colleagues in UNIS that arrangements will be in place for the media. With this, I’m ready to take your questions

Q: The opposition delegation has just told us that their understanding of a transitional authority body to have executive powers replacing the President, resolution 2254 seems to be less clear on that subject. The transitional covering structure may not have executive authority replacing the President, in terms of the papers submitted to the HNC today, can you elaborate on where thing stand on that specific question?

MC: I’m sure that by now you are very familiar with the lines of the Special Envoy stating that the basis of the agenda for this exercise is resolution 2254. We are looking at 2254 in the context of a broader corpus of the Security Council resolutions, but this is the context that defines the agenda for an exercise such as the one the SE is conducting in Geneva these days. And I’m sure you are familiar with the three baskets of issues that are containing this resolution, governance, constitution and elections, this is the intention of the SE to progress on all these three trends of work.

Regarding the papers, the documents, that were handed over by the SE to the two heads of delegation that he met with today. These are documents that are of procedural nature, they are trying the procedure for the talks. At this stage we are looking forward to feedback from the two delegations.

Q: You said that both parties have showed readiness to meet in one room, when is this possible you think, at what stage?

MC: The reference I made was to the speech that the SE gave yesterday, the welcoming speech, in general as a mediator, the SE, of course, he wishes to be able to have all the invitees present in Geneva in the same place to exchange directly, and have direct talks.

And as you know this is not easy because at present there are difficulties for some of them to engage in such a format, which is why this is a mediation process and this why the SE will be continuing his efforts so that things can evolve toward direct engagement. As you all know in this regard, he is ready to lead the process in a manner that makes sense, given the state of plane. He is very pragmatic and creative mediator.

Q: I would like to know if there are any issues that have already been dealt with in previous meetings, issues that have been decided on, that we can build on, or is it that every time we come back we have to start from scratch? So are there any issues that you have already decided on and concluded?

MC: There have been, as you know, the SE has engaged regularly in efforts to exchange with the Syrian parties, first in very informal manner back in 2015 when he had the Geneva consultations. Last year we had several rounds of talks, intra-Syrian talks here in Geneva and we are just embarking on the new process now. You would remember that last year, at the conclusion of the round of intra-Syrian talks, he was able to put forward mediator’s summary of conclusions of these discussions at the end set of these talks. We are of course taking this as baggage with us and we are also counting on the presence of the Syrian invitees here in Geneva to move forward on the basis of the agenda that you are now quite familiar with.