New York

21 September 2016

Note to Correspondents - Remarks to the Security Council by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria

Mr. President,


The Secretary-General has spoken powerfully about this terrible conflict and of the need to open the road to political talks that focus on the fundamental issues for a viable transition. He has requested me to be ready to present to the parties a draft framework of proposals as a starting point for negotiations for a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political transition. And we are ready.


Let me offer a few observations in this regard, we owe them to you.


Firstly, the United Nations has done its due diligence in order to understand the needs and fears of the sides, even if their own starting positions continue to be distant.  Over the last two years it has engaged extensively with Syrian stakeholders, whether in the Geneva Consultations or in three rounds of formal proximity talks, technical discussions, shuttle diplomacy in the region, or through the ISSG and 18 Special Envoys from all over the world, the civil society and the Women’s Advisory Board and representatives from Syria. I have taken account of the inputs made in this engagement.


Secondly, it should be noted that, despite the horrors on the ground, we have been pleasantly surprised that points of convergence have emerged from intra-Syrian talks about what essential governing principles should frame transition and any end-state constitutional arrangement for Syria in the future. These commonalities demonstrate how potentially close the sides visions are – at least on the following points: an open, civil, all-inclusive, non-sectarian, pluralist, democratic, unified state, based upon the rule of law, in which all components of Syrian society are recognized, respected and whose fundamental freedoms are enshrined and protected in a new constitution. At least verbally, this is what they seem to agree upon. 


Third, in round three both sides accepted that the agenda was indeed political transition. The Secretary-General referred to the Mediator’s Summary few minutes ago, which captured further commonalities on transition and set out the issues that need to be addressed for a viable transition. That Summary was subsequently endorsed by the ISSG - and I am glad we have an ISSG, we have been waiting for that for more than a year and it provides the SE special support, we have been alone before - as “the basis for the next round of the intra-Syrian negotiations,” which urged the parties “to reach agreement on a framework for a genuine political transition.” It was within this context that on 26 July the ISSG requested that we develop proposals.


Mr President,


As soon as talks resume, it is my intention to put proposals to all sides as a starting point - and nothing more than a starting point - for negotiations and as a means by which to move to direct talks – not anymore just proximity talks. The Secretary-General encourages me to present a draft framework to move the sides towards transition through a negotiation.


Fourth, any proposals that I present would proceed upon the basis that the conflict in Syria cannot be resolved military - we say that all the time but sometimes don’t practice it - but only through a Syrian-owned and -led political negotiating process between the Government and the Opposition, in which a framework is agreed, based upon mutual consent, capable of effecting a genuine, irreversible political transition leading to a new constitution and free and fair elections under international supervision, while preserving the continuity – we are not looking after what happened in Libya for instance - and reform of state institutions, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).


Fifth, in our view any viable transition must inevitably:


(a) address how power is to be exercised in practice by transitional governance, including in relation to the presidency, executive powers and control over government and security institutions - this is something that the Syrians need to decide among themselves;


(b) involve power being shared and a phased and genuine power devolution exercised during transition in an agreed manner, in accordance with good governance principles, and subject to domestic and international guarantees;


(c) require the creation of collective transitional bodies to oversee a national ceasefire, humanitarian relief and the creation of a calm, neutral environment to enable free peaceful political activity to occur in relation to the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of free and fair elections under international supervision – I know Mr President it sounds like a dream, but that’s the plan, and if we don’t do that it won’t be possible to get there;


(d) be accompanied by sustained international efforts to help reconstruct Syria - and there are already discussions on how to reconstruct Syria - as soon as genuine and verifiable transition gets underway.


Therefore ideally, Mr President, the Government needs to understand that transition involves a genuine devolution of power and not just the absorption of the Opposition into the government as it currently exists. While the Opposition therefore needs to understand that transition is not solely about one person or one presidency, or about the transfer of power from one political grouping to another, but about power being exercised differently as Syria moves forward -- through negotiations.


Above all both sides need to recognise that any transition needs to be all-inclusive and agreed – as the Geneva Communiqué clearly states -- through mutual consent.


I take note of the inputs received from both sides, the Government and the Opposition, in the process. I also have taken note of the Higher Negotiations Committee’s description of its recent vision statement as a living document. This is the kind of approach to negotiations that needs to be developed.


I appeal therefore as the Secretary-General did to all of you in this Council to reflect carefully on what the Secretary-General has said - it was an important statement he just made, calculating every word, because he feels strongly about this conflict - and the few points I have added, and to do all you can to help the Syrian parties to understand that if peace is to be made, if they are to save their country, if there is to be a transition, it will require a genuine readiness to negotiate and compromise and be present at the next talks. This is the opportunity we would like to offer them.


Let me add and finish because obviously we cannot ignore the “gorilla in the room” - and let me stress that all of this will and can be heavily affected if we cannot overcome the present situation with the restoration of the 9th of September agreement between the two co-chairs which actually gave us a lot of hope and on the basis on which we have been working even harder in order to renew the talks.


Thank you, Mr. President.