Welcoming statement of the Intra-Syrian talks by the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, 23 February 2017 [EN/AR]

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Excellencies, ladies and gentleman:

Welcome, Welcome, to the welcoming speech of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General [of the United Nations] for Syria. On behalf of the Secretary-General, welcome to the UN Palace in Geneva.

Let me thank you for accepting our invitation, and let me welcome you to the Palais des Nations - the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. This is the symbol, which in theory, and I hope in practice, unifies us.

This place, and indeed this room, has witnessed many historic moments. And I hope that, one day, people will look back on today and say that at this time, and in this place, the Syrians started the long hard journey towards peace.

So I thank you once again, and this is personally to each one of you, for accepting our invitation, and for being here.

The Syrian people desperately want an end to the conflict. And you all know it. And you know it very well: you are the first ones to tell me this. They are waiting for a relief from their own suffering and dream of a new road out of this nightmare to a real and normal future in dignity. The Syrian people have a lot of historic dignity and [they dream of] a future that addresses their legitimate aspirations, for themselves and for their own country.

They know, they have long known, that there is no military solution, only a political solution. This has been true for all these horrible 6 years of this conflict, and it remains true today, and will be true tomorrow.

I have here with me, as honored members of my team, two Syrian women from civil society, who are calling for peace. They, together with the women who are representing the Syrian delegations – and I see them here, I would have liked to see more, but those who are here are very strong – they represent not only the civil society, the women, but also the fathers, the children, that they are representing in Syria. And in the coming weeks, I hope that we will hear more the voices in particular from the Syrian women. They are here to remind me, and you and the world that the Syrian people need a political solution.

And I will continue to do everything I can to promote the full and effective participation of Syrian women in the Syrian effort.

Let us all keep the interest of Syria and its own people in mind, work together – I know it’s not easy but let’s try to work together – to end the bloodletting and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified.

This is your, our opportunity – and your and our solemn responsibility. A historical responsibility not to condemn the future generations of Syrian children to long years of bitter and bloody conflict, and not to see massive human rights violations continue, not to see more and more Syrians flee their homes or homeland, not to see terrorism further take hold.

Let us also not forget that the conflict has cast a terrible shadow across the region and the international order at large. That is why I want to thank the members of the Security Council and of the International Syria Support Group who are present here – including its co-Chairs, the Russian Federation and the United States - for witnessing this welcoming opportunity through our speech.

Their presence symbolizes to all of us the desire of the international community to see the conflict in Syria come finally to an end through a negotiated political solution. And the United Nations will need all their support – your support – if we are to help you, the Syrians, to take this opportunity and make use of it.

Let me also express here my appreciation to the initiators of the Astana effort – the Russian Federation and Turkey, and Iran and Kazakhstan too – for what they have done to help put in place a ceasefire in Syria. It is fragile but it is there, and we didn’t have one for many months. That initiative has jumpstarted the effort we are now launching, and opened a window of opportunity to see if there is a political road forward and we don’t want to miss this opportunity.

The United Nations has given the Astana effort its active support, like many of you around this table, as it focuses its efforts on implementing a nationwide ceasefire. After so many years of conflict, the ceasefire, any ceasefire will face many challenges. It is vital that it is strengthened, supported by all of us, particularly as we seek now to advance the political process.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends,

As you all know, the Security Council has repeatedly called for a political process to resolve the conflict based on the Geneva Communiqué and endorsed by Security Council resolution 2118, Security Council resolutions 2254, 2268 and 2336. And we have also been supported by the relevant statements of the International Syria Support Group, which has been contributing to what we see today. The Security Council has urged all of us but in particular the Syrian parties to participate in the negotiations in good faith and without preconditions.

Within that framework, resolution 2254 specifically mandates the United Nations to convene representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process through a UN facilitated but Syrian-led political process.

The Government is here. 2254 indicates who should be participating in those negotiations regarding the opposition. That has been guiding my own invitations. Serious progress was made in the last few weeks, perhaps even in the last few hours, in moving towards a more united and inclusive, connected to the main opposition delegation - one. We hope this will be proceeding further in this type of discussion among the opposition. It is plain however that there is still some work to be done in this regard. I hope that it will be still progress while we are here in order to actually finalize this if possible, or at least progress.

It is important, because there is a lot to discuss. 2254 lays out a clear agenda, including specific language on governance, constitutions, elections, and even for the way negotiations should be timed. That is what must now be discussed in details when we will be meeting after this initial welcoming speech from myself.

I said it from the beginning yesterday, I am not expecting miracles. We face an uphill task. If will not be easy. There is a lot of tensions. There is a lot of suffering that everyone has been bearing. But we must apply ourselves to this task. We do know what will happen if we fail once again. More death, more suffering, more atrocities, more terrorism, more refugees. That’s why my urge to all of you [is]: let us get on with the job of implementing 2254. It won’t be easy but we need to start now and we can actually do a lot of good work, while we hope that the ceasefire holds.

Yatik al afieh. Wishing you all the best.

Thank you very much for accepting my invitation, for being here. I look forward now to serious discussions tonight, tomorrow, in the next few days.

Ahla wa sahlan.