New York

28 February 2019

Note to correspondents: Transcript of Press Stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Geir O. Pedersen following Security Council Briefing on Syria

SE: So, good to see you.  I have had now the pleasure of being in the job for eight weeks, you just heard my statement - you heard that I got the support I wanted from the Security Council, obviously as I said in my briefing to the Council the challenges are enormous and we all understand that my task will also, of course, be difficult.  But I started on the basis that I need to build trust - with the government in Damascus, with the opposition - but also try to build trust within the international community and that division we see in the international community also will have to be addressed, and that we would have to try to see how this could help us move the process forward.
And let me also emphasise that we are now entering into the ninth year of the conflict and of course it is urgent for the Syrian people that we intensify efforts to try to find a solution to this that has [eluded] us for too long.
Question: When you say you are seeking a common forum, can you explain to us what do you mean by that, and on the constitutional committee, where are we on actually forming this committee?
SE: Let me start with the constitutional committee.  As I think you heard in the Council and was mentioned by the Russian Ambassador, I have had extensive consultations in particular with the Russians on this but also with other capitals.  I believe we are making progress but there are still unresolved issues, and we are working on the package, we need to agree on the names, but we also need to agree on the rules of procedures.  So, as I said, we are making progress, but we are not there yet.
When it comes to the international community, you know this is work in progress, as I said it is important to build trust, and that would also take a little while, but I think we are moving in the right direction.
Question: So, there is clear disagreement between Russia and Western countries on the process of reconstruction of Syria, so, do you believe that reconstruction of Syria should be dependent on the political process, or can it be started now already?
SE: I think, as you I have been listening very carefully and I hear that there are very different opinions on this, I know it is pretty clear that the biggest donors will not participate in the reconstruction before they see the beginning of a credible political process.  It is not my job to go and give characters to the different international actors, so I said I take note of this and I have intensive dialogue with all the parties, also on the economic and social challenges and of course, not the least, the humanitarian need of the Syrian people.
Question: A follow up question, you floated the idea of a common forum mentioning that there are five international armies fighting in Syria, what do you have in mind? Would it be a reviving the ISSG or what?
SE: Listen, it is a good effort that you are doing here but I will not give any more details to you than what I gave just now to the Security Council, but I hope to be able to inform you in due time on progress also on this file.
Question:  Two questions, one Assad just ventured out of Syria for the first time in seven, eight years and visited Iran, do you think that is significant to the post-war situation, and secondly there is in the US Congress a legislation effort to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, will that help or hurt your mission?
SE:  Let me start with the last question on the Golan, obviously the Security Council is very clear that the Golan in Syrian territory, and the first aspect of [resolution] 2254 is of course the territorial integrity of Syria.  When it comes to President Assad’s visit to Tehran, I think I know as much about that as you do, so I am afraid that’s where I am.
Question: One of the most difficult questions for the political process is the question of the participation of the Kurds and so far they have been largely excluded - as you know after the Syrian government they are the second largest territory holder in Syria - what will you do about that and can you give us an idea about their participation in the constitutional committee?
SE: As you all know the Syrian Kurds are already part of the process.  I have already met with a representative of the Kurds, but you are, I think, referring in particular to the SDF [Self-Defence Forces] in the northeast, and it is correct that they are not part of the political process so far.  I think this could turn into a challenge in the future so it is important that we address this issue in a proper way.
Question: You talked about the constitutional committee as one element out of five, and we saw with Mr. de Mistura that it was his main effort in his last months, so does this mean that you downgraded this element in your plan? Or are you planning to work on these five elements on parallel basis - where is the constitutional committee exactly in terms of sequence?
SE: I think you understood me correctly - we are doing a lot of work in parallel, we see the constitutional committee as one natural element of implementation of Security Council resolution 2254, but I said in the briefing, not the only one.  I think it is extremely important that we work on the other issues and I was mentioning in particular building trust, with the government in Syria and with the SNC [Syrian Negotiations Commission], and through that try to establish a real dialogue and as I also mentioned in the briefing I have an agreement with the government that we will deepen that dialogue and I have an agreement with the SNC.  So what we can do is to go deeper into the issues, identify areas where we agree, areas where we disagree but also then use the commonalities to further and move the process forward, that’s my ambition. 
Thank you.