Damascus, Syria

11 November 2014

Transcript of a press encounter by Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria

Staffan de Mistura: I have been for three days now in Syria, three days which I've been having many useful and constructive meetings. I met the Foreign Minister, the Deputy Foreign Minister and met at length with President Bashar Al-Assad.

I then had a visit to Homs where I met the governor and I was able to see the destruction of the city and also meeting people who represent the opposition in Al-Wa'er.

The visit this time follows a briefing I gave at the Security Council.  It is a briefing which focused on an action plan -- not a peace plan yet, inshallah, it will come; but meanwhile, it's an action plan. 

The action plan is aimed at some few points which are clearly basic.

One is the need to focus on the real threat of terrorism as defined by the resolutions of the Security Council.

Second is to reduce violence, and I will come back to that one.

Three, through the reduction of violence, try to reach as many people as possible in Syria and outside Syria who have been suffering due to this ongoing conflict; and through that, hopefully facilitate it and use that as a building block in the direction of a political solution.

All Syrians need a concrete example. That's why we have come to the conclusion of making a specific proposal.  Since everybody agrees there is no military solution and everybody feels there must be a political solution and that three and half years of suffering of the Syrian people are enough, too much -- that's why we actually focused on one example, Aleppo.

I've been yesterday to Homs. Have you been to Homs? Have you seen the levels of destruction? Have you seen the levels of horrific destruction of a beautiful city? We don't want that to happen in Aleppo.

I myself was shocked and felt very touched by that visit.

That's why the UN came up with a proposal of a UN initiative which is a freeze, which in Arabic is “Tajmeed”. This is a new way to see and achieve what we hope to bring a de-escalation of violence.

It is different from previous ceasefires. It is a new way for approaching the de-escalation of violence, in particular in one place to start with-Aleppo.

That means stop fighting, stop fighting, no one moves from where they are, that means facilitating the implementation in that location of (Security Council) resolutions 2178, 2170 and the resolutions for humanitarian aid. Through that, a hope, to bring a sign of hope and bring some form of stability and therefore a process towards stability. This means, if that freeze works in one place, we can replicate it elsewhere. If that "freeze" works, and we hope it will, then this could be a building block for a political process and certainly this is not a substitute to what is a political solution but it certainly is an incentive in that direction.

Meanwhile, we continue regionally, nationally and internationally to push for a political solution.

Why Aleppo then? Because Aleppo is Aleppo, because Aleppo is under pressure and has been under pressure for years now in tensions between the Government and opposition and now also Da'esh and Al-Nusra. Because Aleppo and the city is not far from a possible collapse and we need to stop that from happening; and because Aleppo is iconic, a symbol of culture, of multi-culture and of religious and historical heritage in Syria.

We hope that will introduce an indication of hope.  And I must say my meetings here with the President and with Government officials gave me a feeling that they are studying very seriously and very actively the UN proposal. 

We are going now to make sure that this proposal is actively considered and studied by everyone else.

The alternative is more tragedy, more suffering after almost four years of a war where there are no winners and no losers, except one major loser, which is the hope for peace in this region and the people of Syria.

Shukran jazeelan and As-salaam aleikum.

Thank you, we can take a few questions.

Q (in Arabic): Since the crisis began in Syria, both the Russian and Syria Governments have stated that the solution to the crisis in Syria should be political and peaceful. You have also proposed that the solution is peaceful and political. What are the prospects of reaching this solution while the western countries continue to provide support to militant groups?

A: The answer is given by everyone. Everybody feels that now is the time to focus on fight against terrorism, as per resolution 2170, and that is Da'esh and Al-Nusra; and that I think every country in the Security Council when I made the presentation felt that it was in line with their own thinking, that the priority is to find a political solution, a political solution and not a military solution for this ongoing crisis in Syria.

Q: You have proposed, Mr. De Mistura, to start with the "freeze" in Aleppo. Do you think this is a realistic initiative and how will you make sure that at the international level there are commitments to block the flow of terrorists into Syria? How will the UN be committed to implement this freeze?

A: I believe that the proposal of the UN regarding one freeze, which I say is different and is a special case for Aleppo, is a concrete and realistic one. Now, do we have the options beyond that? Well there is one; the Security Council Resolutions are requesting in fact stopping certain activities related to the conflict and Aleppo could be a good example of seeing how this can be implemented.

Q (in Arabic): You met with President al-Assad and twice with Foreign Minister [Walid al] Moalem. President al-Assad said that there is a semi-willing and commitment to and that the initiative is worth studying. Did you get an official response from the Syrian side or is this related to a time line that you will discuss in another visit?

A: I will leave the Government of Syria to reply to this question. What I can tell you and I am authorized to say is that the initial response by the Government of Syria to the UN proposal, because this is not a proposal that is done by the Government of Syria, it's us – don't forget we chose Aleppo, we chose the word freeze, we chose the way of moving onwards. The (response) was of interest and of constructive interest and they are now waiting for our contact with the other stakeholders, the other organizations and people with whom we will be talking in order to make sure that this proposal can be moving forward.

Thank you.