Astana, Kazakhstan

15 September 2017

Note to Correspondents: Transcript of Press Conference by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura

SdeM: Good evening.  You heard many valid comments so I will try to be short and to address nine, but specific points.

The first one is definitely our gratitude, and I think everyone has said it, to his Excellency the President of Kazakhstan for arranging, supporting and making sure that this Astana process goes on.  We are quite impressed, frankly.

Second, we want to put on record our appreciation for the persistence of the guarantors, there has been a lot of very intense, long discussions, but they have been producing outcomes.  

So here comes the next point, we really welcome this agreement today - because we have always been pushing for de-escalation, that’s what the people of Syria have been asking and the fact of adding new areas to the de-escalation in crucial.  This has already produced a reduction in the fighting in many areas.

Next point, however, we heard it and we reiterate it, these arrangments need to be considered temporary in nature because of the sovereignty in national and territorial integrity of the country, Syria, is fundamental.  So good news, effective, we hope, and we want to see results of it - but temporary.

Next point, the UN will continue, and indeed intensify its efforts to provide assistance to every Syrian, everywhere in the country, particularly now that we have seen de-escalation areas taking place and therefore entirely - and we hope in practice - this will mean, easier access of humanitarian assistance, based on needs of the Syrians, wherever they are.  And you must have heard, the first convoy of SARC with UN aid has reached Deir ez-Zor.  In this connection let me reiterate some points that are close to our attention and heart:

Protection of civilians: whatever the arrangements are, whatever is the implementation of it, the protection of civilians is very important, particularly now in the Idlib area, where we do have, as you know, more than 2 million civilians.

Demining: it has been advancing and is crucially important and we are doing our part.

On the detainees, we still do not see sufficient progress, that’s why we have been hearing it and we will insist that there will be a discussion with concrete outcomes, not only in Astana but also at the UN in New York and Geneva and anywhere else because there are thousands of families of detainees, of abducted people, of missing people, who are asking us and everyone - can we know where are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and can we find a solution for this tragic situation?

You must have heard me saying it in the past, I want to repeat it - I think we have seen it also today - there is no military solution.  No one has won this war, and no one can claim to win this war militarily.  Therefore we need now to bring the momentum of Astana to Geneva, in order to have a political process moving on the basis of de-escalation.  No de-escalation can be sustained without a comprehensive political process, and that is based in Geneva.

I will, in New York, consult the Secretary-General and the Security Council on the next steps and therefore also announce when the next Geneva talks will be taking place.  And we hope that all sides, based also on, very much, the Astana process, i.e. the de-escalation, will be addressing the next talks on the political process, in a serious way, we look forward to that.  Thank you.

Question: Can you tell us when the date of the next Geneva talks is?

SdeM: I will not announce it today, you must have heard that there is a target date for the next Astana meetings towards the end of October.  I need to consult the Secretary-General, the Security Council and we have the opportunity of doing so now that we will be in New York, everyone actually, for the General Assembly.  And then we will be announcing the date - but it is going to take place, and we are counting to actually work on the momentum of Astana, in order to make sure that this round will be serious - hopefully as close as possible to direct discussions.

Question: This is going to be a repetition of my question before, I asked about the monitoring process, I just want more detail if possible on what kind of actions will be taken against those who violate those agreements of de-escalation zones, if any?

SdeM: I hope you realize that I would normally defer to those who are the guarantors to answer that.  I may be aware of some of those points but I think that it is much fair that you ask the guarantors.

Thank you