Good afternoon. President of the Security Council briefed you I was not there when he did but from what I understand on the main conclusion and outcomes of the Geneva 4th round of talks and I will be doing my own comments on that basis. I just briefed the Security Council on the 4th round and you must have seen my own press conference in Geneva last Friday, but I will also release to all of you my own briefing. It is as you know a closed meeting but in this specific case it was very complicated and it was a briefing on what has happened in Geneva, and what is the outcome that we would like to build on. I think it is only normal and right that the press should get a copy of it so I will be issuing one soon.
It is the International Women's Day and I know that you must have heard it already but frankly for me, it is an important special day because of the important role the Syrian women are playing both during the conflict and what they are facing as mothers, wives, daughters, the horrors of this conflict and how they have been helping me and my team and my colleagues on how best we can address the needs of the Syrian people in a political process. So I would like to honour them today and dedicate the day to Syrian women. Every woman in the world is important but seeing it from the agenda and the file I am following, I can testify that the Syrian women deserve a very special moment of honour and respect. Their voice was clear when we were in Geneva, they said we want serious negotiations, we want the end of the conflict, we want to contribute to the future of the country not to the war and to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrians.
So as I told the Security Council, we have completed nine days of the fourth round of talks in Geneva. We did not expect miracles and frankly we did not have miracles but we achieved much more than many people had imagined we could have. No one left, everybody stayed. They were focused, we got an agenda, we got a timeline, we got some agreement on substance. You must have seen this picture, you must have seen it, it is well known to you. This picture was in the SC during the whole meeting of the SC why? Because it is much more than what it looks. It is the first time that there was involvement by everybody showing that they are serious and trying to actually achieve a dialogue among them. They would have never been seated together.
Let me now get into some points although as I told you, you will be getting my own briefing which will be quite elaborated. Our aim is to implement 2254 -- you have heard it. We will be promoting talks on substance: on governance, on constitutional process, elections exactly as 2254. Now we added counter terrorism as additional basket which is now part of the four baskets. It is by far more than counter terrorism and includes other subjects such as the security organization, confidence building measures and much more and we may add more baskets. For instance reconstruction. The type of talks will still be proximity talks and by the way in Astana it is exactly the same. Getting into direct talks may take place at the right moment. We see it is much more productive when we have proximity talks because a mediator can do his job better and also facilitate the technical aspect.
Bottom line: my current intention is to bring the invitees back to Geneva for a fifth round with a target date of 23 March. Invitees will arrive on the 22nd and they will be ready to work on 23 March. I have been asking the Council for their support and that is what I have been getting. Not only support to me and my team but also support in particular to what we consider a priority: support for building on the outcomes of the 4th round so on the 5th round no one can start trying to go backwards. We need to go forward.
I appealed to the participants of the fourth upcoming Astana meeting through the Council to address the challenges of the ceasefire. Without a strong ceasefire the talks will be fragile. People in Syria have the patience to see these discussions going on for a long time -- like every discussion after a war of six years almost -- but at least they have to do it while there is no heavy bombing taking place. So we have been urging meetings in Astana to actively be productive and we have been supporting them with our own technical team. But of course the responsibility of their success is in the hands of guarantors. I appealed also to the Council to support unhindered humanitarian access including to the besieged and hard to reach areas. And progress on the detainees issue, which we will never give up on until it is solved. And above all, I have appealed to Syrians and all outsiders to abandon the fantasies that are still there of a military victory. One side or the other still believe it is possible. It is pure fantasy. I will stop here and open the floor to your points and questions.
Q: The U.S. Ambassador was just asked whether the U.S. would attend the next round of Geneva talks and she didn't answer directly but said there are missing people at the table. Is the U.S. going to be invited and do you expect its attendance? Who else might she be referring to in terms of missing?
SdM: Let me clarify a little bit. The Geneva talks are called the intra-Syrian talks that is among Syrians. The invitations that we issued were directed to Syrian interlocutors. Many ambassadors or Special Envoys of various countries were there, from the Deputy Foreign Minister Gatilov to Mr. Ratney who was recently nominated as new Deputy Assistant Secretary of State were present in order to assist the delegations to feel comfortable with the process. They are not inside the room, they are outside so I don't issue invitations, they decide to come. And they are warmly welcomed but they are outside as support, as advisors, as goodwill. So I am expecting someone from the U.S. to do the same this time. Now who it will be I cannot tell you.
Q: On 23 March when all the delegations arrive to Geneva and then you have more than one track at the same time, can you explain to us how is it going to work? There will be 4 separate rooms and each room have many delegations? And which basket will you personally be handling which is more important than the other? How are they going to proceed? What if one if the delegations arrive at a conclusion before the other?
SdM: I hope you will appreciate that I will not discuss with the media with all due respect how I will organize this fifth round. The first ones to discuss it with are the parties. Secondly, what I did say is that they will be working in parallel. Now what does that mean four at the same time running in a match synchronized with a watch. Whether there will be one in the morning and one in the afternoon or there will be two a day, these are all to be discussed with the parties. What you should see is four cars moving. Now how I will put the fuel in each car it will be up to the parties. I have quite a professional team and we are not only me. I may be moving from one meeting to another but I have some of my colleagues who are very good in mediation. At the end of the day where will the Syrians be is the most important part.
Q: You just repeated that all parties in Geneva agreed on the agenda but we heard from the HNC at the conclusion of the previous round that they did not agree on the 3 baskets + 1 on terrorism. How can we understand that?
SdM: First of all I said “UN agreed”. When I was asked what is the position of every group, I didn't want to clarify it because they have the right to elaborate on that. I said, the UN -- who is the convener and I am the one who has been calling for the invitations, calling for the agenda -- the UN agreed to the four baskets but clarified it includes not only terrorism and counter terrorism but rather is a special basket that can include something else. By the way is anyone in favour of terrorism here? So the subject is an important one but needs to be clarified in the context of the UN and we have been explaining it. When you will see my briefing you will understand.
Q: Did you have a briefing on the outcomes of the trilateral meeting in Turkey 2 days ago? And will you attend the third round of Astana talks?
SdM: The trilateral meeting in Turkey was at the very senior military level I understand. It is very important that three important countries who are involved and are interested in a solution in Syria do meet in order to avoid the conflicting issues and above all achieve some coordination to focus on the terrorism aspect. But I am not part of it, I am a UN diplomat. Secondly, it was an interesting development we looked at with interest.
As for the second part, no I will not be in Astana. This is going to be a UN technical contribution. We have five very professional people based on 60 years of experience in UN ceasefires. Frankly with all due respect, the UN has more experience in ceasefire than all the countries involved in Astana for obvious reasons. My team are there to help on that and will report to me in order to make sure that we can support what is an important aspect.
Q: Can you give us an idea on what points the different sides had similar views or reached similar understanding? Will the invited opposition groups be the same as the previous ones in Geneva talks?
SdM: Regarding the first part, there were commonalities. There was one issue they were having common position: They all did not want to start from zero again because the problem of any negotiations is the tendency to go backwards and revisit everything. All agreed they want to build on Geneva 2 and 3. This is why I have been insisting to build from Geneva 4 to 5.
Second: some of the commonalities are crucially important because Syrians are proud people and they love their country. National sovereignty, integrity, unity, certain major aspects about the end state. How to get there? There are disagreements but what could be the end state there is a lot of common ground. Regarding who will be invited, again I am talking on the basis of what we did in Geneva 4. Geneva 5 is a continuation of Geneva 4.