Geneva

09 February 2021

Note to Correspondents: Transcript of Virtual Press Stakeout by Mr. Geir O. Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria, following his briefing to the Security Council

Thank you, Jenifer. As you may know, this was a briefing I gave in so-called close consultations after the decision by the Security Council itself. As always, I was heartened by the fact that all members of the Council gave what I would call a strong support to the work of me and my team when it comes to trying to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.  
 
I had two points I raised with the Council, one obviously linked to the fifth round of the Constitutional Committee, but then also a wider point on the need for a broader political process and the challenges related to that.
 
But let me start by saying something about how I approached the issue about what we are doing in the Constitutional Committee. I told the Council that the procedural proposals had been on the table from the SNC Co-Chair and then that I proposed a separate one, I recalled, as you know I believe, that the government Co-Chair could not accept either proposal and that thus the Committee actually met in the same way as before.

I also gave the Council what I call a brief overview of the substantive positions put forward during the three different elements of the drafting body, from the government, from the SNC and from the Middle Third civil society group.  

I also noted to the Council that we do not have a workplan for the future as of yet, and that while one party is proposing to work as we have done before, and the other is seeking a complete change in frequency and length in meetings, and a timeline.

I shared with the Council the assessment that I shared with the Committee members themselves, that session five of the Constitutional Committee was a missed opportunity and a disappointment. 

I discussed with the Council what we could do to be able to create a situation where we could change the current way the Committee is working and that I need a credible engagement to ensure that if the Committee reconvenes, it will function properly, work expeditiously, and achieve some results and continued progress in lines with the Terms of Reference that we have already agreed upon. 

I also stressed to the Council the importance of not repeating what has been done to date and the importance of focusing on common constitutional language.

Then my second point to the Council was – as I said, I addressed the broader issues, and here my key point was the need for a constructive international diplomacy on Syria. And I am more convinced than ever that without this, it is unlikely that any track – the constitutional track or any other – will really move forward.

I noted that there is a lack of trust and confidence and a lack of political will to compromise – and a lack of political space to compromise too. 

I also told the Council that many of the issues of concern to the parties are indeed not constitutional, and not even in the hands of the Syrians themselves, and that these issues are all linked.

I stressed that no one actor or existing group of actors – Syrian or foreign – can determine the political settlement of the conflict. It must be negotiated. 

I noted that I believe that everyone accepts that, but most players seem keen for other side to move first.

That is why I stressed to the Council that, alongside the Constitutional Committee, and equally or perhaps even more importantly, I believe the current divides in the international community need to be bridged, in an effort to define mutual and reciprocal steps for steps, defined with realism and precision, that can create some trust and confidence and generate movement on the issues in resolution 2254. 

So, these were my two main points: the need for changes in how the Constitutional Committee functions, and the need for a constructive international diplomacy that bridges existing divides and focuses on mutual and reciprocal steps for steps.

I will continue my engagement with the government in Damascus and with the SNC – and of course with the two Co-Chairs, and I hope to travel to Damascus also in the not too distant future.

Question: My question is about the upcoming Astana meeting taking place, February 15-16, and if you are going to participate in it?

Mr Pedersen: Yes, COVID situation permitting my plan is to attend the forthcoming Astana group meeting in Sochi.
 
Question: The opposition leader said in a press conference last week that he did not expect the Constitutional Committee will meet again after the (inaudible).
 
Mr. Pedersen: Thank you for that. As I emphasised to you in my briefing now and also as I said to the Security Council, when the Committee will meet again depends on the discussions I will have with the parties and with the two Co-Chairs, both on procedural questions, workplan, and hopefully of course also on substantive issues. And that is what is going to determine when the Committee is going to be able to meet again.
 
Thank you.