Transcript of the press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, following his meeting with caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
(Unofficial translation from Arabic)
1 November 2013
Good afternoon. I am coming from Damascus. I was honored to meet with President Michel Sleiman, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
This visit to Lebanon falls in line with the visit I have undertaken to several countries in the region, in the framework of preparations for the Geneva II conference that the United Nations is hoping to convene as soon as possible.
I spoke with the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister and I told them about my visits and about the preparations we are carrying out in order to convene the conference and about what we have seen and heard during this trip to a number of countries. Lebanon and its three leaders support the idea of the conference and of convening it and they are in favor of being invited; and of course when they receive the invitation, they will decide about attendance and I think they are leaning in favor of attending. These in reality are the issues that I will tell you as an introduction. I will now take two or three questions.
Q: How was your visit to Syria and the outcome of your tour? Is it possible to say that the date of the conference is approaching, during this month? And is this what you will inform the representative of the US and Russia in Geneva?
Brahimi: The representatives of the Syrian Government, primarily President Bashar al-Assad, in addition to many sides representing the civil society, political parties, intellectuals and others and the Government, the internal opposition and the personalities that we met, they all accept the conference. The Government has agreed to participate in it without prior conditions, as we have been saying with regards to the conference. Regarding the outcome of the tour, as I said, of course, we did not hear in any country opposition to the idea of the conference but readiness from all to attend. Of course, every State has its opinion, has its problems, has its concerns and also its hopes as to what could come out of that conference. But I think all are aware that this is a very dangerous crisis that not only threatens the Syrian people who, as you know, have been suffering, but it threatens the whole region. This is what we will relay on 5 November to our partners in this operation, the Russians and the Americans, in addition to the P5 and other states who will participate in the conference.
Q: Mr. Brahimi, we know that the parties to the conflict in Syria are the Syrian state and the armed groups and those supporting them. Will there be a seat at the Geneva II table for ISIS? What are you counting on today for the success of your mission? Previously, this mission failed. What are you counting on now?
Brahimi: You are welcome. ISIS is not interested in this conference nor does it care about it. There are no discussions from any side about contacting it, much less inviting it. The opposition is the Syrian national opposition, armed and unarmed. They have all been invited to form a convincing delegation, this is the term that I used, for participating at the Geneva II conference. I am counting on the Syria people and those who claim to represent the Syrian people to realize the danger of the situation and for all sides to seek to save Syria and to save their country and to cooperate with the region and from outside the region in order to save Syria.
Q (in English): There have been conflicting reports whether Geneva II will be held. We even heard Syrian officials saying that it will be held between the 23rd and the 24th of this month. Why do these conflicting reports exist, and who is the official side that will announce when the Geneva II conference will be held?
Brahimi: The announcement will be made by the Secretary General of the United Nations after consultations. Those consultations are taking place and a number of dates have been suggested including the 23rd and the 24th but these consultations about the dates are still continuing and the Secretary General will make that announcement when he is ready.
Q: There are talks about whether Syrian President Bashar Assad will be part of the solution or not? Whether he will be part of the transitional period or not? President Assad said you told him not to run for the next elections. Are you still of that opinion? Is there still insistence that President Assad should not be part of that period?
Brahimi: The truth is my opinion does not matter. There is agreement that Geneva should be without prior conditions from any of the sides. The objective is to implement the statement of 30 June of last year. That statement includes very clear points, indicating that the Syrian sides in agreement among themselves should agree on the formation of what was called the transitional governing body that would work on preparing at the end for elections and that this authority would have full authorities. When the two sides sit at the table in the presence of the United Nations, the next day after the conference, they will study how it would be possible to move from this situation we are in and from this suffocating crisis that is fatal to the Syrian people, how to move on from here towards the circumstances where it would be possible to build the new Syrian Republic.
Q: There are Lebanese concerns about the possibility of burying Syria’s chemical weapons in Lebanon. Did you discuss this issue with the Lebanese officials?
Brahimi: No. I do not have a role to play regarding the chemical issue but what I know is that the specialized UN organization on this issue is only facing normal material problems. There are no concerns from any side. Thank you very much.
Q: Will you visit Saudi Arabia?