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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Notes to correspondents

Press conference in Damascus by the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi (unofficial translation from Arabic)

Damascus, Syria, 1 November 2013

Good morning, everyone. As you know, we at the United Nations are now trying to create the conditions to hold Geneva II.

The visits I made to some countries in the region come within the framework of this work and preparations for Geneva II.

I have visited a number of countries. The last stop so far is Damascus. Afterwards, we will head to Lebanon.

All countries visited expressed significant interest in Geneva II because of the great attention regarding the situation in Syria and the outcome of the crisis, which is causing the Syrian people to suffer greatly.

Everyone wants to contribute, one way or the other, to prepare for Geneva II and put an end to the crisis in Syria.

In Damascus, in addition to Government officials, first and foremost His Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad, I was glad to meet with a large number of representatives of political parties, civil society organizations, figures and intellectuals concerned about events in their country.

I apologize to the brothers and sisters we have not been able to meet because of time constraints.

Our office, headed by Mr. Mokhtar Lamani, will continue contacting all persons indicated and listening to their opinions.

I want to say that Geneva II aims at implementing the Geneva Communiqué issued on 30 June 2012.

I believe that the Geneva Communiqué enables the Syrian brothers to overcome the crisis and opens the way toward building their new republic.

The difference between Geneva I and Geneva II is that in Geneva II, Syria will be represented by two delegations, the first representing the Syrian Government and the second representing the Syrian opposition.

Talks scheduled to begin on the second day - between the two Syrian delegations and in the attendance of the United Nations alone - represent the core of Geneva II.

We look forward for Geneva II to represent a start leading to overcoming the crisis in Syria.

Q: Mr Brahimi, you described a positive atmosphere in your tour in the region.  This is your second visit to Damascus.  There is a key dilemma and an actual problem mentioned by the Syrian Government more than once: the continuing support and financing of armed groups that can be described as fundamentalist on the ground. You did not meet any of their representatives here, especially after Saudi Arabia refused to receive you, in addition to Turkey’s reservation on the issue of monitoring its borders, receiving and allowing terrorists to enter Syria … Under this reality, is there a true possibility to hold Geneva II? How will this issue be addressed?

Brahimi: This is a speech, not a question. We are working… the Secretary General of the United Nations and everyone speaking about Syria says that the flow of weapons to all parties in the country must stop. From day one, we have been saying there is no military solution for this crisis. We have to work for a political solution. Syrians themselves will reach a political solution with the help of their neighbours and the international community. I believe this help is available and I hope that Syrians will have the will to cooperate and end the crisis.

Q: Could you please say in English, Mr. Brahimi, you had regional tours, you have spoken to all main players in the region, you have been speaking to the opposition and commanders on the ground, you are speaking to Damascus; is there any chance that Geneva II will take place as expected? Is there any progress?

Brahimi: Insha’Allah, yes.  I think I have said in the beginning, this is a visit in the framework of preparations for Geneva II.  I am completing this tour of a number of countries in the region and going back to Geneva.  I am going to meet representatives from Russia and the United States who are our partners in what we call tripartite format. We have been working together for quite some time now and I think that, probably in the afternoon, or in the second day, representatives of the rest of the P5 will join us; maybe representatives of other countries (will also join). There are some very serious efforts being developed everywhere to try and make this conference possible but we will say it happened only when it happens.

Q: By the end of this tour, which is almost over, can you identify the key issue impeding or delaying this conference? Under the conditions by the Coalition or the opposition in exile, is it possible for the conference to take place with the attending parties only, as mentioned in international media?

Brahimi: In addition to the Syrian parties, the conference will be held in the presence of the invited states as well as the regional and international organizations. The Syrian parties are the Syrian Government - and I may have missed highlighting that but you know - the Syrian Government has confirmed its acceptance to participate in Geneva II. As for the opposition, the Coalition and other opposition parties are still discussing the way in which they will be represented in Geneva II. However, I believe most people want to attend, because everyone knows there is no other way to try to overcome the catastrophe in Syria which is threatening the entire region and other regions in the world.

Q: Most opposition parties you met here said it is not possible to form one delegation for the opposition because they already divided, whether inside or outside Syria. Is this a problem? And will Iran be invited to Geneva II?

Brahimi: Regarding the opposition, of course we wish they will have one delegation. It will be much easier for the sake of the conference and for Syrians themselves. However, this is an issue subject to discussion and agreement among opposition parties and between us and the opposition over the next days, Insha’Allah. As for Iran, the United Nations is in favour of Iran’s attendance. However, the list of invitees is not agreed on yet.

Q: What is the final date for Geneva II, is it the beginning of next year or sooner?

Brahimi: Maybe 2016, isn’t that better? We hope it will take place in the next few weeks, not next year.

Q: In case the opposition does not attend Geneva II, will it miss the final opportunity?

Brahimi: Let us be optimistic and say everyone will attend. In my personal opinion, Geneva II will not happen if no opposition representatives attend. This conference will be held for Syrians - not for states or the United Nations. Everyone attending will be there to help Syrians meet together and address their issues. Therefore, opposition attendance is fundamental, necessary and important.

Q: If you remember, I was kidnapped for five months by the Farouq Brigades and I escaped by myself. One month before my escape, on 8 February, gunmen filmed a video for you to negotiate my release. Why did the United Nations or the Arab League not negotiate or do anything to release me? Are these bodies only good in [inaudible] the Syrian Government?

Brahimi: I congratulate your coming back. Your question is very strange and cannot be the last one. Let us take the final question.

Q: Mr. Brahimi, at the beginning you indicated that a number of countries welcomed Geneva II; what about countries you did not visit – countries that had reservations on your visit? Will you raise your voice against this in case they continue preventing the conference?

Brahimi: This is a statement not a question. We respect all countries and they are free in terms of opinion. I have visited all states concerned with Syria, they all support our work and I think they will take part in the conference if invited. Thank you


Notes to correspondents on 1 November 2013