25 June 2013

Transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi

JSRS: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

The Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations are holding their second trilateral meeting this afternoon to continue discussions on how the Geneva Conference on Syria will take place with the best chances of success.

I thought that this time I would say a few words to you before the meeting so that I do not keep you waiting until an unspecified time when we finish our meeting.

Since our previous meeting here on the 5th of June, the situation on the ground in Syria has hardly improved. It is still relentless destruction, killing, more suffering, more injustice, and more uncertainty for the future of the Syrian people.

At the G8 summit in Northern Ireland last week, Syria as you know was at the centre of the discussions. I am sure you have seen the long paragraphs dedicated to various aspects of the crisis in Syria in the final communiqué of the G8.

That interest in the G8, was a confirmation that the international community is more and more conscious of the fact that the Syrian crisis is not only a national tragedy for the Syrian people but also a major threat to regional and international peace and stability.

The events in the city of Sidon in Lebanon yesterday, where over 50 people were killed, are a stern reminder to all of the risks of the conflict in Syria spreading across the border to neighbouring countries.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has expressed his concern and made an urgent appeal to all parties in Lebanon and in the region to act responsibly.

Let me quote from that statement of the Secretary-General. The SG, and I quote, “condemns the attacks on the Lebanese Armed Forces which have led to serious losses in the army. He extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Lebanon”. The Secretary-General stresses that all in Lebanon should fully respect the authority of the State and its institutions, most particularly the Army under the leadership of President Sleiman.

I naturally strongly support the statement of the Secretary-General, and I express my personal support to President Michel Sleiman, to the Lebanese Army and to all those who are acting to contain this very serious crisis in their country.

To go back to today’s meeting, in a moment we will resume our discussions, the discussions that we started here on the 5th of June. Fundamentally, we will be assessing what needs to be done by us, the three parties that are participating in this meeting, as well as by others, to create the right conditions for the Geneva Conference on Syria to take place with the best chances of success : when would be the best time for the conference to take place, who should participate in it, and how should it be structured, are some of the questions that we should discuss.

I am confident that our discussions will be constructive and I am also confident that we will make progress. But I cannot be certain that we will resolve all these basic questions today.

I will take a couple of questions if you like.

Q. Mr. Brahimi, I have two small questions. My first question: I’d like to listen to your evaluation of what he said yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria in Damascus about how he sees, how the Government of Syria sees the Geneva 2. My second question is a technical question: why a press conference in advance before the meeting and not after the meeting? Thank you.

SJRS: I have seen the statement made by the Foreign Minister of Syria. I don’t think I can really comment on his position. He is coming, his government is going to be represented in the conference and he will present his point of view. You know, I always try to see what is positive in every statement. He said that we are coming to Geneva to create a “sharka hakikia”, a real partnership. That’s rather good, and that I welcome.

Q: Mr. Brahimi, I would like to know your opinion about the last decision of Friends of Syria to deliver arms to the opposition. Don’t you think that this will be only fuelling the conflict? And what do you see the prospects of today’s meeting?

SJRS: The Secretary General of the United Nations and myself and a lot of other people have been saying all the time that giving arms to all the parties, the Government and the opposition, is not the right thing to do, and I don’t think our position has changed.

Q: Où sont arrivées vraiment les discussions entre les deux parties, parties russes et américaines et surtout est-ce que l’opposition et le système de Bashar Al-Assad sont prêts vraiment à s’asseoir et discuter d’une solution ?

JSRS: Ecoutez, les Américains et les Russes ont dit le 7 mai qu’ils ont compris maintenant qu’il n’y avait pas de solution militaire et qu’ils voulaient travailler ensemble à faciliter une solution politique. Moi je trouve que ça, c’est une position très positive sur laquelle on peut construire. Je peux dire aussi que c’est la position que j’appelais de mes vœux depuis le début. L’opposition et le gouvernement : le gouvernement a dit qu’il allait participer ; l’opposition est en train de discuter sa propre organisation. Je crois qu’ils vont confirmer qu’ils vont venir. Personne ne s’attend à ce que les réunions soient faciles entre les deux parties mais je crois que ce sera un [pas en] avant s’ils se réunissent, s’ils acceptent de se parler, cela sera déjà un pas en avant.

Q: Are you still hopeful that the conference can be held in July? And also could you say if there is no press conference after the meeting today, is it because you are pessimistic about the outcome? Thank you.

JSRS: I mean, frankly now, I doubt whether the conference will take place in July. The opposition, you know, I think their next meeting is on the 4 and 5 July, so I don’t think they will be ready. I think that also, what is happening in the region is extremely, extremely serious and I very, very much hope that, people, the Governments in the region, and the big powers, particular the United States and Russia will, I am sure they are aware, but they will act to contain this situation that is getting out of hand. Not only in Syria but also in the region.

Q: So I just want confirmation, what is the next meeting on 4th or 5th July?

JSRS: That is the opposition. The meeting of the opposition.  Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.