Joint Special Representative: Statements

Transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, with Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Dr. Nabil Al Arabi - Cairo

30 December 2012 – Good morning, wish you a Happy and healthy New year.

First of all I would like to apologize because I don’t speak a lot to you. You want me to speak whenever I come here. But I speak only when there is something worth to be said.

Today, I actually came to inform H.E The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Dr. Nabil Al Arabi about the visits I made to Damascus and Moscow and the meetings I had had during these two visits. As I said in Damascus, I have spoken in length with President Bashar Al Assad about his country; and I have spoken about the issues I told him about; I also said that he is free to reveal or not what he said to me. This is still standing and I don’t think I have the right to say what President Al Assad told me.

In Moscow I met yesterday with Russia’s Foreign Minister and spoke to medias; and you might have seen some of that.

What I would like to say about Syria is the following: and I apologize to repeat this expression [apologize] each time I speak because it’s necessary and actually one should remind himself and others as well about this.

The situation in Syria is bad. Very, very bad and it is worsening at an increasing pace. So if killing about 50 thousands in about two years, if the crisis continue – God forbid – one more year there won’t be 25 thousand killed but 100 thousand. The pace is increasing, the pace of worsening is increasing.

Also there are figures that we must remind of: In Syria 4 million humans are displaced and wandering , 2 million refugees and 2 millions who might haven’t yet left their villages but are in extreme need for everything; in extreme need of food, heat , everything. When we say 4 million, these are not figures! These are humans: women, men , children and elderly; these are humans. Refugees are also half a million humans! I have seen some of them in Jordan and in Turkey. When standing before them helplessly and unable to give anything or even a good news with some hope, one gets very ashamed because it’s like you’re just watching them. The situation is bad and increasingly worsening at a grave speed.

The solution we are speaking about- I’ve spoken about that in Moscow and I think this was relayed by press agencies. I am unable to see another solution out of two possibilities: Either a political solution that is accepted by the Syrian people which meets its aspirations and legitimate rights, or Syria to be transformed into hell. People are speaking about a divided Syria into many small states like Yugoslavia. Absolutely no! This is not what is going to happen. What is going to happen is “somalization”

Warlords and the Syrian people persecuted by people seizing its fate.

Should this happen, the number of refugees won’t stay as it’s being said that it will increase to a million. No it’ll be more than a million. What will happen in Lebanon if half a million Syrian fleeing the situation in their country? What will happen in Jordan if half a million Syrian flee their country?

So the responsibility of the region is not just out loving the Syrian people or out of sense of brotherly duty toward a neighbor country that is suffering from this problem; it’s a responsibility to defend the security of countries of the region. It’s a responsibility of the whole international community. What means speaking about the security council in charge of world peace and security? World peace and security will remain under direct threat from Syria if the problem is not solved in the few coming months. Thus one is warning about is coming . So the choice is between the political solution and the entire collapse of the Syrian State. The basis for this political solution exist; the basis agreed upon by most of the region’ states and all major states. The five permanent members of the security council were present, and so was the secretary-general of the league of Arab States and the UN Secretary-general. Most countries of the region were present but Saudi Arabia and Iran, unfortunately.

In this meeting held at the end of June 2012 there are useful basis for a peace process that Syrians themselves could end war and build the future of Syria. What’s that? What’s this peace? There should be a ceasefire, the formation of a fully mandated government, and there is several steps leading to elections. What are these elections? And When it will take place? It’s either electing a president- should there be an agreement to keep the presidential regime- or more likely to elect a parliament-because I think that Syrians won’t like a presidential regime in the future, like the one they have during the last forty years. In such case a parliament and a government will be elected and Syria will start healing its wounds and God willing, the regional and international communities will help Syrians resolve their problems and rebuild their country.

This actually what we discussed in Syria and in Moscow and are discussing with the US and Russia. You know that I met with Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov and with their aides William Burns and Michael Bogdanov as well. God willing we will continue our contacts, cooperation and meetings seeking this necessary and urgent peaceful solution.

This is the reality before us and I am sorry it lasted more than I expected. And I will answer two or three questions.

Questions and Answers

Question: At your discussions in Moscow when you said that the solution comprises that the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad will remain [in power] in Damascus, this might have been a chock for many in the opposition as well as among those seeking a solution. Do you think a solution could be reached while President remains in power?

Brahimi: I didn’t say that the president should stay. Absolutely not. It ‘s true I didn’t say he should leave tomorrow but I never said directly or indirectly he should stay. In addition I’ve absolutely never said the government, I am speaking about, should be formed after the end of his mandate in 2014. I am saying the solution should be during this year, in 2013, it should be before two years have passed since the beginning of the catastrophe that stroked Syria. So I don’t know from where these allegations did came, neither why attributed to me. There should be some objectives for some people.

Question: the perspective you gave to the situation in Syria is very pessimistic . Do you see there’s still a possibility for a political solution? And why did you focus on Russia in your repeated visits?

Brahimi: What I said is not pessimistic; it is realistic. When someone speaks about the situation of 23 million people he doesn’t speak about what he imagine or wish. First we describe the reality and then we look for solutions. So what I said is realistic. I warn everybody, you, others and his Excellency the Secretary-general as well about what could happen if the situation is dealt with appropriately. When we say the solution is possible, it’s for sure possible but it is getting harder every day. IN 2011 dealing with this problem would have been much easier. There’s no doubt it is much harder today, but it is possible and very possible if what is necessary is done.

Question: The Syrian opposition and precisely the coalition refuses this vision and request the departure of Assad first. It refuses this political solution your Excellency is proposing. Anything new about convincing the opposition to accept this solution?

Brahimi: It’s their right to demand the departure of their president today before tomorrow. But the question is how to achieve this, how to reach the departure of this president that the opposition doesn’t want. This should be done through a political process. They have been saying the president should leave during two years, but he still there. Expressing the objective and the legitimate desire can be understood but cannot alone yield a solution. There should be action. I am proposing a method of action and I am saying this will lead to real and full change. Syria couldn’t be ruled in the future as it has been ruled during 42 years. There’s no doubt about that, but how this change will take place, that’s the question. We have a proposal and I think the international community will adopt it.

Question: There is still serious concern that since the Geneva agreement, nothing has really moved on the diplomatic front, what do you think really needs to be done to break this deadlock? And would you think you need to amend this proposal to exclude Al Assad from any future transitional government.

Brahimi: I don’t think we can discuss this between you and me here, but six months have elapsed, things have changed on the ground, this has to be taken into consideration, I am not sure what you read in Geneva, you know Geneva was a compromise and it is understandable that it has different interpretations, but I think Geneva aims at a change that is total and a change that is acceptable to the people of Syria. That is what it aims to. And I think people need to sit down and start hammering out how you are going ... The way I put it is that, as in everything else there are a lot of devils in the level details, let us start identifying those devils and dealing with them one after the other, so I think that there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and we are trying to do some of that work at our l but a lot of people have got to contribute to that effort. Thank you very much indeed everyone and [in Arabic] happy new year once more and I let you with the Secretary-general.

Question: Do you see any willingness on both sides to go into a political process?

Brahimi: No there isn’t. This is the problem, the problem is that both sides are not speaking to one another, and are speaking across of one another and this is where help is needed from the outside, to make sure that everybody speaks about the same thing.

Thank you very much.