Transcript of stakeout by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura after meeting with Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu, 16 February 2017

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Q: How do you “evaluate” these talks and how do you tell that you have achieved a mutual understanding on particular questions.

SdM: I had a very useful intense meeting with Minister Shoygu and his team. The main points were the Astana discussions at the moment and then the Geneva discussions taking place next week.

There was quite a clear understanding that the Astana current meetings are very important, because the aim at consolidation of the cease-fire, and the cease-fire is one of the most urgent things that we need to consolidate in Syria. This is why we have a technical, high powered team with lots of experience. UN has seventy years of experience in cease-fires, to assist the delegations in order to ensure that we have, in Astana, a well-established mechanism to monitor, control and support an overall cease-fire.

Regarding Geneva, the discussion was clearly about hoping and wishing that the Geneva negotiations will be focusing, with as inclusive as possible delegation, on three items: one is governance, the other one very important Constitution, new Constitution, and three - very important - new elections.

All three are important and we will be pushing for all three areas to be seriously discussed in Geneva.

Next point, what we discussed was the importance and the urgency for a humanitarian access to all areas which are not receiving humanitarian access in Syria.

In this context, the cities of “Kafraya and Foua” and “Madaya and Zabadani” were particularly mentioned by the Minister and by myself.

We also, with the Minister, discussed the importance of avoiding then Eastern Ghouta becomes a moment of conflict, because that could affect both Astana and Geneva and both the Minister and I agreed that this is an important element to avoid.

And the last point, the Minister raised, and I agreed that there is a very urgent need for addressing the issue of demining in Syria. And that there will be a very good opportunity for International UN involvement in helping the people of Syria to have the mines taken away from large parts of the territory, like we did in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Somalia and in the Balkans. And there is obviously a need to do the same in Syria.

Bottom line, Astana is important, we need it to succeed, Geneva is important, we need it to succeed. We need to end this conflict in Syria. One on the cease-fire, the other one on the political process.

Q: What is the role that Russia plays in this process, the peaceful settlement in Syria?

SdM: Russia is an extremely important player in the whole environment, the proof is that they have been able to get together with Turkey, to actually do what we have not yet been able to achieve, at the same point, an agreement about the cease-fire. And therefore, I think that Russia will continue to be engaged and with the UN, in order to find also a political solution.

Thank you very much.

Moscow, 16 February 2017