Astana, Kazakhstan

04 May 2017

Note to Correspondents: Transcript of press encounter with UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura in Astana today

Good afternoon,
Today in Astana I think we have been able to witness an important promising positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict. As you all know there is already a ceasefire. The ceasefire was established in late December with the involvement of two countries and then a third one. That ceasefire has been facing a lot of difficulties but has been holding more or less. The most important thing is that this initiative today is actually a step in the right direction because it is pushing for a concrete de-escalation in addition to the ceasefire in four areas. We are very grateful all of us to His Excellency the President of Kazakhstan and his Foreign Minister for this opportunity for the Astana process. We are also grateful for the Minister of Foreign Affairs for constantly referring to the fact that this initiative is helping and is meant to help and support the political process in Geneva. De-escalation obviously must be followed by humanitarian access. This is part of the memorandum. The hard work of Iran, Russian Federation, Turkey and the presence at the senior level of the United States of America and of Jordan has produced something that we believe as a UN is a very significant, and in my opinion- our opinion- is a promising step. What the people want to have in Syria: de-escalation of violence, reduction of what has been seen as a constant increase in many areas particularly those four areas of violence. The UN, therefore, is strongly supportive of that and we’ll do what we can to actually get into the concrete realization of the details. The devil as usual is in the details particularly in a conflict like this. Two reasons, the first one is that is what the people of Syria are asking for. The second one is because of this, what happened today, the signature - which we as a UN witnessed - the signature, as you know was done by the three main guarantors, is conducive and helping if and when it is actually becoming concrete. We hope it is going to be concrete in the next two weeks for the resumption of the Geneva talks. I will be consulting the Secretary–General and the Syrian parties in light of this new important development in order to fix and announce a date soon. I am not going to say now because as you can imagine this is a new development which has a very important impact on the Geneva talks. 

Now regarding other issues, you must be aware of the fact that during these days we have been discussing together with the three guarantors and with the support both of Jordan and the United States, about two important additional areas. One is humanitarian demining, which as you can imagine is an important aspect affecting Syrian people. We have our own senior team from the UN helping in addressing and discussing these issues. It is likely to be followed by some field trips as well on demining. The second one is an issue many Syrians are asking us about all the time and has been discussed seriously in these days, which is the issue about detainees, missing people and abductees. Both areas have not been yet formally finalized but we believe is being almost finalized, we believe, in imminent discussions. This is also a very good development. Conclusion: this is an important day. We need to make sure that there will be follow-up this time. We had many moments of hope but this time {the follow up} to become even more concrete than the past ones. We will be consulting the Secretary-General and the Syrian parties in order to ensure that the follow up to Astana will be a good chance for the Geneva talks. That is where we are at the moment. I will take three questions:
Q: What do you think about what happened inside the room when some part of the opposition left. What is your opinion?
SdM: My opinion is that we have had as you can imagine in Geneva a lot of experience with people leaving and coming and this has been a very painful, very tough, and very violent conflict so far.  I am not surprised when there are difficulties having everybody in one room. What I do know is that it is in the interest of everybody to follow on discussions because I have not heard anyone, even those who leave the room, saying there is a military solution.
Q: When will the de-escalation zones will start to take effect?
SdM: You should understand I am not in the position to elaborate on the details of the memorandum which has been signed by the three main countries. They should be the ones elaborating with you on that. But, I do understand that there will be a period not longer than two weeks in which all this will be seriously put to test and we want that test to succeed.
Q: What do you think about the role of the United States in the process? 
SdM: Well I think you should ask them directly. What I can say that their presence as an observer, and I would say a proactive observer, has been important and significant. And I believe the telephone call which took place between President Trump and President Putin recently has had an impact on that.  And obviously, without the U.S. it will be very difficult to have a geopolitical approach to the Syrian crisis, so we all welcome their involvement. Thank you very much. ​

Office of the Special Envoy for Syria
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