This page is to provide you with an update on the Intra-Syria talks. Official Statements by Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, and his Office are provided in form of a timeline (please, scroll down for older statements).
by the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria,
Mr. Staffan de Mistura
Geneva (27 August 2016)
Last week, the Special Envoy for Syria appealed for a humanitarian pause of at least 48 hours to deliver United Nations humanitarian aid to Aleppo. He welcomed the response of the Russian Federation to support this proposal.
Since then, the UN developed an Aleppo emergency response plan and conveyed clear UN humanitarian requirements to all concerned and urged their engagement and support.
The UN has pre-positioned aid ready to be delivered to Aleppo during a 48 hour humanitarian pause, in order to reach 80,000 people in Eastern Aleppo and also to reach beneficiaries in Western Aleppo. The UN would also try to repair the electrical system servicing 1.8 million people. This pilot initiative is intended to set the stage for weekly pauses for humanitarian relief.
The Special Envoy is aware of concerns that have been expressed by the opposition. He however regrets the initial negative reaction in some quarters amongst them particularly as regards the use of Castello Road for the safe passage of aid, though he understands there are ongoing deliberations which he hopes will yield a positive consideration of the current UN plan. The Special Envoy wishes to clarify that for operational and logistical reasons determined solely by the United Nations based on humanitarian considerations, the UN needs to be able to deliver this initial aid in the first instance through the Castello Road. The Special Envoy hopes that it will be possible to expand delivery routes for additional operations if feasible in due course.
The Russian Federation has confirmed that it is ready to ensure compliance with UN humanitarian response plan and has engaged the Syrian Government on this issue.
Efforts are continuing, particularly by the United States and other members of the Humanitarian Task Force, to ensure that all stakeholders are ready to commit to enable the UN to execute the humanitarian response plan.
The Special Envoy calls for all concerned to exert every effort so that, by this Sunday, 28 August 2016, we know where we stand.
He also stresses that there should be no escalation in areas adjacent or around the area of the pause.
The UN is ready to move. People are suffering and need assistance. Time is of the essence. All must put the civilian population of Aleppo first and exert their influence now.
Near verbatim transcript of stakeout by
Mr. Staffan de Mistura,
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria,
Following the humanitarian taskforce meeting
28 June 2016, Geneva
Good afternoon, and sorry for the delay, but as you know there have been new indications and discussions taking place regarding both Aleppo and the overall situation.
Let me first of all say that I am asking my deputy to go to Damascus in the next few days in order to discuss with the Syrian authorities some ideas that we have developed in order to facilitate some type of launching of what we intend to be, in August, the Intra-Syrian Talks.
I myself am proceeding to Teheran in order to make sure that the Iranian authorities are well on board, in view of the so-called Moscow understanding, which was the outcome not yet finalized in its own details, between Russia and the US, the two co-chairs.
Let me now address the humanitarian taskforce. The main point I wanted to make is that we are, as you know – because everything is connected and everything is linked, regardless of the different roles that we try to have between political, humanitarian and military- we are all awaiting and urging the two co-chairs, Russia and the US, to expedite their own discussions on how to reduce violence, along the lines of their meetings in Moscow and then in Laos, particularly between Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry.
On the humanitarian side, the reality on the ground is that, currently, what is actually impeding the access to humanitarian aid is not permissions, is not papers, it is rather fighting. Fighting is the main reason for which this week, we are not able to give you good news about humanitarian access.
Meanwhile, there is a feeling too that, perhaps, waiting for talks, or, perhaps, waiting for whatever the follow-up is to the Moscow understanding, facts on the ground are taking place, or appear to be taking place. In this connection, we are, very seriously, concerned about Aleppo, but not only Aleppo, of course, we have to be fair in looking everywhere in the country. Damascus, the recent bombing of the center of the town, Daraya, the bombing of its agricultural land, which makes it more difficult for humanitarian access, Eastern Ghouta, the four towns, which will be a subject I will be raising when I travel, and the latest horror, which took place in Qamishli.
In Aleppo, the situation is extremely serious, no doubt. We heard, probably, that there is only two to three weeks of supply, in addition to the bombing of the warehouses, medical facilities and bakeries, and the need of treating wounded people when in fact medical facilities are being hit. The humanitarian situation is getting more and more concerning. The city is de facto besieged because it is almost militarily completely encircled. The clock is therefore ticking, there is no doubt about that. If Aleppo becomes a humanitarian major besieged area – and we are very close to that- we would have a huge number of additional besieged – humanitarian wise- people in the country, when we were actually having a reduction. You must have learned, like all of us, we actually learned it during the taskforce, this breaking news of a Russian military proposal by the Ministry of Defense. It is premature for me and others to actually make any comments, until we have further details on what has been and is the Russian proposal or initiative. We do have the cessation of hostilities taskforce meeting this afternoon and I’m sure that some of the capitals of the countries who are members of the ISSG and the UN from a humanitarian point of view, will be analyzing it more deeply. That’s what we are at the moment in terms of information.
Q. You mentioned that this is a little bit premature but obviously this is a very important development if a Russian-Syrian-led humanitarian corridor could be arranged. Could you tell us what you’re thinking about the possibility of the UN participation in that, notably because some people will be skeptical about the people leaving some areas and who are taking advantage of this offer, where they will be held afterwards, can you please tell us what the UN role will be?
SdeM. Well, the first thing the UN is supposed to do when there are breaking news like this – we were not consulted that’s why we are, like everyone else, being told what is the proposal- is to consult now my headquarters, OCHA in particular. Stephen O’Brien is in charge of humanitarian operations and we are still a little bit early in New York. I will be in touch with him in order to have his own feedback on that.
Q. May I just follow up on that. The Russian Defense Minister has also mentioned that you are sending experts here to Geneva, what is planned with that, and was it indeed based on a request from Secretary Kerry.
SdeM. I understand that there are several experts from the military establishment both from the Russian and the US on the way to Geneva, probably and most likely to discuss the “devil is in the details,” which we have been asking to be sorted out as soon as possible, because while these details are being discussed, things are taking place on the ground. Please bear with me, I also want to be able to have my colleagues from the humanitarian side to analyze the information that they may be getting on how this Russian initiative fits with the humanitarian initiative.
Q. I know that you don’t want to comment specifically on this Russian proposal, but the proposal actually allows the civilians to actually leave Aleppo, rather than the priority of getting aid in. In principle and as far as I understand it, UN aid agencies don’t usually support that particular kind of initiative. Could you just answer yes or no please?
SdeM. Well, I see your point, and it has been one of the points that has been raised by some of the members of the HTF, when they heard this type of breaking news, but allow me to wait for my headquarters. I think we should have a very professional analysis on such an important development so that we can address it properly.
Q. It’s a follow-up to the question I’ve asked you on Tuesday. What happens if the Russians and the Americans cannot agree on a military cooperation deal, because you previously said that the future peace talks depend on this, and the formula for the political transition. But if they cannot do this deal, then are you going to cancel the peace talks in August?
SdeM. I will not tell you that I am going to cancel peace talks, because the UN is bound to try, and try again, and try again, and when we fail, fail better and try again. That is our philosophy, especially when what is at stake is such a tragic situation for the Syrian people, after five years. What I can tell you is that if those discussions do not produce fruits, they will certainly have a very negative impact on the chances of the talks to become fruitful and successful. They will be anyway, uphill talks but we need to give them the maximum chances.
Verbatim Transcript of remarks delivered by
the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura,
prior to his meeting today with the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Berlin.
I’m looking forward to meet our friend and trusted supporter of the UN efforts, yourself, Minister, and Germany. I will be having an opportunity of discussing exactly what you said. We will be certainly on our side saying thank you, once again, to Germany, because, not only you’re a country that everyone in the region has trust in and has good relations with, and certainly you can exercise a positive influence as you always did. Secondly, you’ve been always supporting the humanitarian and the political efforts of the UN. So, we will be talking probably about the humanitarian and the political aspects. On the humanitarian side, let me say I totally agree with you. The issue of the humanitarian situation in Aleppo is going to be, and is concerning for all of us, and I’m sure we will elaborate on that. If the city of Aleppo, which is iconic, which is special in the hearts and minds of all of us, and certainly of the Syrians, is completely isolated from the north and from the south, we may have a situation of complete besiegement, and that means 300, 000 people, which would be in need of help, at least, and could potentially be wanting to go away from the city, and the Syrian people are very reluctant refugees, they don’t want to leave their country. So there was a proposal yesterday by the humanitarian taskforce to actually ask for a pause of 48 hours, in order to be able to at least allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of Aleppo. Both sides by the way because both roads are being on and off cut-off.
On the political track, let me take this opportunity of reiterating two points, and I think it’s good to do it in Berlin, based on the good relationship that we have and support you’re giving to the UN.
Point number one, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and, modestly, myself, are determined to actually look for a proper date, in August, for re-launching the Intra-Syrian Talks in Geneva. At the same time, we have been watching very carefully, and you’ve been able to do it in Washington, I was just now in Ankara, the fact that there have been an important series of meetings in Moscow, between Secretary Kerry and the top Russian Federation leadership. Those talks were intensive and lasted two days, and from what we understand, they came up with some type of understanding on some steps to be taken. While we are taking here, I think that there is some intensive discussions on the “devil is in the details” in order to make sure that those steps take place. Certainly, we are eagerly waiting for those steps to become concrete and visible. If that takes place, I know, and we can say, it would be a great help, to make the Intra-Syrian Talks starting in a good mood, aiming for what they should be, an opportunity for credible, real, steps in the direction of political transition.
I was in Ankara, and I can confirm that the Turkish authorities, despite of the recent events, are very serious about focusing on the issue of Syria and are fully aware that there is a need for addressing a political solution there. That of course also applies to other regional players like Iran, but that’s why Germany is well-placed, in view of your credibility and influence. So I’m looking forward, I’m in it and I heard it, and I heard it from others so it’s not only me. That’s why I’m looking forward to these discussions. Timing is crucial. The next three weeks, believe me or not, are going to be extremely important to give us a chance, not only for the Intra-Syrian Talks, but also for some possibility of reducing violence in Syria. Thank you.
NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS
Near verbatim transcript of the press stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura
following the Security Council meeting
New York, 29 June 2016
You already heard [from] the Chairman of the Council, the Ambassador of France. Let me first summarize what we did and then of course I will take questions.
The first point was that we all remembered with sadness and horror the terrorist attack in Istanbul. It was a reminder to everyone in the Council that fighting terrorism is a priority and should be considered constantly a priority. We should not forget that aspect. However, winning – not only fighting - terrorism in Syria and Iraq too, but particularly in Syria, would require a political transition because that’s the way through which we take away the water from those who are swimming in the terrorist environment.
The second point that came up marginally but it’s an important point was the fact that today 18 towns have been reached amongst the besieged cities. And for those of you who have been following up all the different attempts to reach all the besieged areas [will know] it’s quite a landmark. It’s not enough. We’re not reaching them as much as we want. We are not reaching everywhere but if you think about what was last year [compared to] today, 18 of the 18 towns besieged were reached.
And now we come to the political issue – the political transition. Some of you – and I recognize the faces of many of you – have been following up the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. You know very well that one of the strengths – there aren’t many strengths but the UN has some strengths and they need to be used very effectively – is the convening power. In other words, we learned that when you convene a conference or talks or intra-Syrian talks, you want to make sure that it has good chances of success. Having just a conference for the sake of a conference, we can do that any time but that’s not the purpose.
The second point, we already went through two intra-Syrian talks, which did produce some astonishing outcomes -- because when you think that we could get some commonality among people and groups that don’t agree, it’s quite an outcome. But this time, the third one needs to be particularly well prepared. Do I need to remind you what is going to happen between now and September? The next General Assembly will be the last where the Secretary-General will be there. The last General Assembly where President Obama will be there. We will have a G20 in September when perhaps it will be the last occasion for President Obama and President Putin to meet. And [from journalist: is it the last for you? Mr. de Mistura responded: “Well you should first of all ask my wife because she has a strong say on my personal plans. Secondly, it the Secretary-General and the Security Council and my own conscience. So you have many to ask, not only me.]
Now let me finish with one point because it’s a point that you wanted to have. So, bottom line is I have not – as the French Ambassador told you already – indicated a fixed date in July because I’m holding this to make sure that the consultations amongst the co-chairs and others [and] to make sure that there is sufficient critical mass so that when we call the talks there is a possibility of moving forward on political transition by August is still an option. Bottom line, I’m still aiming – we are aiming at -- within July but not at any cost and not without guarantees. And aiming at August as the period where we should be seeing something concrete. So that in September we take stock.
Questions and Answers
Question: You have just said that August is still your target. One month and one day to re-start political talks, to deal with that mother of all issues – political transition. Surely that August deadline is completely unrealistic now.
SE: We should talk in August because when we look at the different aspects of what we are talking about – political transition – first off all, everyone agrees that political transition is a priority and no one is denying it. And secondly, allow me to say that while we are talking about the talks there is a lot of discrete diplomacy taking place. I’ve been in St. Petersburg. I’m going to Washington tomorrow. We consulted the Security Council so let’s talk about it in August.
Question: You said that you could have a conference at any time but you would like to have something substantive to move you forward. What needs to happen to move this forward to get the process going?
SE: This is very close to what James was saying when he said it looks impossible. But do you remember when the cessation of hostilities took place? Did that not look totally impossible? Even I was wondering ‘will it really take place within a week’? But it was enough that the two co-chairs came up with critical mass and we were able – through the ISSG – and together we were able to cover it with a proper mantle. It did take place. It did not last perfectly for over two months but what a miracle. So what we need is for the stakeholders to come with a feeling of urgency and work on some ideas on how to bridge their differences by what everyone means by political transition.
Question: [inaudible] For instance, we know that the Syrian government is there. They have the Russians and the Iranians leverage their power on them. Who can leverage the opposition to bring it together?
SE: Well, the opposition has many friends and supporters and if they feel as the case of the cessation of hostilities, it is in their interest and the two co-chairs have a common line I think we can see that happening. But of course there is a lot of work to be done but the beginning is to see whether we have the critical mass then I say we are ready for the talks. Or I will tell you why we are finding it difficult to have them.
Question: I want to ask you about the participation of the Kurds. Is there any effort while you are trying to re-start the talks before August 1st? Is there any effort by your office or any member state to finally include the Kurds in the talks?
SE: This issue is coming up regularly and rightly so, by the way, because the Kurds, as you know, represent at least five percent of the Syrian population and the Syrian Kurds are Syrian. They have a voice and they need to be heard. Now the issue is that – first of all - everyone seems to be talking to them – the Americans, the Russians. Many of them are fighting against Daesh/ISIS in connection with member countries. But there are some difficulties in ensuring that they could be part of the talks. One of them is that they have been announcing that they are in favor of federalism – just to mention one. That is an issue that is provoking on all sides in Syria a reaction. We will be finding a way to have their voice heard. To give you another example, there are informal discussions with them all the time. But inviting them to the intra-Syrian talks will require some homework.
Question: Your point about the last term for President Obama, last term for the Secretary-General, the last moment they can meet with Putin. Is the idea that if it’s not August, it’s off? If it doesn’t happen by August that you have to start anew? And is that a point on putting pressure on any of the parties?
SE: The short answer is yes. I am putting pressure on all parties because I think that the main parties that can make this happen need to feel like they have a historic responsibility. The UN can help but it needs to be done like it was done with the cessation of hostilities by the main stakeholders. Now, why September/August? There is an issue of legacy. There is an issue of history. And there’s the issue about the UN wanting to know that they have done all that they can with Ban Ki-moon who was the Secretary-General during this period to make sure that every chance for solving this horrible conflict has been attempted.
Near verbatim transcript of joint stakeout
Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
Jan Egeland, Senior Special Advisor, and
Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syrian Arab Republic
Geneva, 23 June 2016
SdeM. Good afternoon, again sorry, but we just finished our Humanitarian Task Force. So let me just start by first making one or two general comments on the overall picture and on the political overall picture. I have the pleasure here as you can see, to have both Jan Egeland and Yacoub El Hillo, who is visiting us and was attending the whole meeting so you will have an opportunity of asking and hearing the issue of humanitarian aspects and I will leave you with them.
So on the overall picture, I was as you know, accompanying the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Saint Petersburg where the Secretary-General and I had the opportunity for quite a comprehensive and long meeting with President Putin and with Sergey Lavrov, which was mostly focused on the Syrian issue, and on the political and humanitarian process.
So I am on my way now to New York and Washington. We will have a Security Council meeting on the 29th and prior to that I will have consultations in New York and also in Washington.
All that because we have to continue preparing for various options regarding the Intra-Syrian talks. You do know that meanwhile we are having what we call technical talks taking place and they have been taking place both in Cairo, already and in Moscow and the next one will be in Riyadh and other locations if and when required. These technical talks have been and are very useful. They are under the radar. They are calm and quiet and discrete, but they have been providing us with quite a lot of substantive points that will be, can be, useful when the Intra-Syrian talks will take place.
So the question is: when are we going to have the Intra-Syrian talks? Well, it will also depend on the discussions I will be having in New York and Washington and in particular the debate at the Security Council where I will definitely ask their own guidance not only about the urgent need of having a renewed Intra-Syrian talks but also what are the best conditions for holding them in the best possible chances.
As you know they are linked to the humanitarian process. They are linked to improvement on the cessation of hostilities but frankly they are particularly linked to finding a minimum critical mass particularly based on the discussion between the two co-chairs, which we are stimulating and facilitating but needs to get more concrete, so by the time we then decide to call for the new talks, we know that this time at least a critical mass around which this can be developed.
I will be able to elaborate a little bit more once I have I have ended up these discussions and probably after also having my own discussion and consultations at the Security Council and therefore will revert on that.
The aim is still July remember, because August is not a fictional but is a real timetable we are having in our own radar screen for many reasons that we already elaborated.
That is my update on that. I can take one question but then not more than one because I will like you to focus on the opportunity of having both Jan Egeland and Yacoub El Hillo here.
Q. Mr. de Mistura, if you look now to the fight between al-Nusra and the Syrian forces and the situation on the ground, what could be your evaluation for the coming round held, to have a really successful new round between the Syrians? Or how do you feel for the coming period?
SdeM. Well it is linked to what you will be hearing. On the humanitarian side, again, I will leave the details, and substantial details to both Jan and Yacoub.
June had been by far a better month than many so based on that we have seen a substantial improvement, is that enough? No, for feeling comfortable, Will that be enough for making sure that that aspect is being addressed better in order to facilitate a good chance of Intra-Syrian talks? Probably, but then look at the cessation of hostilities, Aleppo, Idlib and other places, we are not getting at the moment good news.
But the most important aspect is, don't forget that the cessation of hostilities took place when the Russian Federation and the US agreed on something, and that produced a critical mass. We are looking for the same type of critical mass on the beginning of the political transition and we can help, we are helping but we need that one.
Thank you. I will now leave the floor to both of you, and I really want to say again, once publicly how much we are all grateful to Yacoub El Hillo and his team for what they are doing. These are the people, the friends, the colleagues who are going at night and over very difficult places and they make us proud so I am very pleased to see you here and to be able to be present in person to explain and elaborate.
JE. Thank you very much. Let me first just start with the meeting we just had and then Yacoub will give you the overview of the situation on the ground. The humanitarian Task force has been explained very clearly that the situation on the ground is bad, and in many places worsening. We are working in active combat zones, we are working in the cross fire, local agreements have broken down, in many places conditions have worsened.
So it speaks quite large to a lot of good efforts that we have so far this month been able to reach 8 out of the 18 besieged areas, we hope to reach at least 7 more in the next week. The reason that we have made progress are two-fold: members of the ISSG task force have been more active, have been effective vis-a-vis the parties, and that led to the small but important breakthrough of getting to Douma, Darayya and Al-Waer for the first time, really in a very very long time.
Altogether we have now reached 16 out of the 18 besieged areas since the task force started work in February. The two remaining ones, Arbeen and Zamalka, both in rural Damascus, we hope to reach next week, is an issue of disagreement on how many people are in those places. We have an accurate assessment based on humanitarian standards, we believe there are around 40,000 people; the government has so far only cleared a fraction of that for delivery. We need to be able to go to all of the people who are there. We are hopeful that that will happen.
We are, and Yacoub will comment on that, we are very concerned however now in the situation of the four towns, they are Madaya and Zabadani in the south, besieged by Hezbollah and government forces, and Fouah and Kefraya up in Idlib, besieged by armed opposition groups. They have not had deliveries since the end of April. And it would be horrible for all of us if we are going to return to what was the situation where we started, that people were starving in Madaya and elsewhere.
The four towns agreement has to be able to get back to track, as has the agreement on al-Waer.
Finally we are acutely aware we are only alleviating suffering. Besiegement is continuing, it should never be there in the first place for civilians, neither in terms of blocking humanitarian assistance nor movement of civilians. It belongs in the middle ages, not in our time.
The area of medical relief has not become much better. The main reason for people dying within besieged areas is from preventable, easily preventable diseases because there is no medical services to speak of. Relief has not become much better. Probably the main reason for people dying within besieged areas is easily preventable diseases because there are no medical services to speak of.
Over to you.
YEH. Thank you Jan and good afternoon to you all, dear colleagues from the press. Happy to be here today. I bring you greetings from Syria, from Damascus. I am not going to add much to what Jan has comprehensively shared with you, except perhaps to say that people continue to suffer in Syria. Not only in besieged areas. Of course there the suffering is most acute because of the trapped situation where they find themselves – some for years. Siege must be lifted and it cannot be condoned as a tactic of war in this conflict in Syria. That’s very clear. We repeatedly asked for that and we will continue to ask for that. In the meantime, with the help of the Humanitarian Task Force and through our efforts on the ground of advocacy with all parties to this conflict, we will continue that quest to reach people and deliver to them. But let’s not really look at the suffering in Syria only through the lenses of siege. Let’s not do that. 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance today. Not all of them are in besieged areas. Not all of them are in hard-to-reach areas. Even those who are in easy to reach areas have humanitarian needs and all need protection. All need protection. This war continues to rage and the price is being heavily paid and borne by the average people and that is something that we must always remember. The United Nations and partners are very much on the ground. We operate in different parts of Syria with a very powerful network of partners – both international and national also working from inside Syria but also from across the borders. That effort is quite momentous. Perhaps one final point is that this costs money. The international donor community must remember that. Today we are almost at the end of June and our humanitarian appeal for 2016 is funded at 20 percent. This is the middle of the year, the income is funded at 20 percent. Humanitarian action costs money. Saving lives in a war like this costs money. The cost of doing humanitarian business in Syria is very high because of all the complications and all the impediments. We do it but in order for us to do it fully, we need the resources.
Happy to answer any questions.
Questions and Answers
Q. (Translated from Arabic) What are the challenges that really prevent you from reaching besieged areas and the areas that we haven’t been able to reach so far?
YEH. (Translated from Arabic) The list has 18 besieged locations. Since the beginning of the work of the Task Force that emerged from the International Syria Support Group which started its work on the12th of February, and here is where I will switch to Arabic… (Arabic). So far we have been able to reach 16 of the 18 besieged locations. (Arabic) Which of the areas have you not been able to enter so far? These are Zamalka and Arbeen. (Arabic) The only two locations we have not been able to reach out of the 18 are Zamalka and Arbeen. Although the approval has been given to deliver there, we have not agreed on the number. We assess the number of people to be at 30,000 people. The Government assesses the number of people to be at a much lower rate. That dialogue continues and we are pushing very hard to deliver to these two locations next month. Shukhran.
Q. What is the reason that the Syrian regime bombs the areas before and after you deliver aid?
YEH. It’s a terrible thing that when we are allowed to go and deliver to a place - and I believe you are referring to Darayya in particular - that immediately after, we get reports of shelling and strikes and attacks. It is terrible and we do register our objection to this repeatedly. It is also something that is taken up at many other levels at the United Nations, including with the Special Adviser but also with the Special Envoy. It is also something that we must continue to call for its stoppage. People cannot be punished simply because they have been given the opportunity to receive humanitarian assistance. It’s very clear.
Q. Tom Miles from Reuters. Similar question about people seeming to go back on agreements very quickly. The Russians announced a ceasefire in Aleppo – was it last week for 48 hours? And then it seems that within minutes or an hour of announcing it at this meeting last week, they had already broken it with airstrikes. There have also been allegations about Russia using cluster munitions in Syria and I don’t know who is investigating this. Whether it’s the Humanitarian Task Force’s job to investigate these sort of claims. But it’s difficult to see Russia as an honest broker when its role in Syria is so questioned and when it’s ready to break its own ceasefire very shortly after announcing it. I may be wrong but please correct me. Thanks.
JE. We are indeed very, very disappointed as humanitarians that the cessation of hostilities, including the one in Aleppo, did not lead to much. The fighting is also one of the reasons we are not able to deliver to the four towns: Fouah, Kefraya, Madaya and Zabadani. And these are areas that are long overdue. Starvation will start in those areas if no cessation of hostilities starts there. It hasn’t however prevented our courageous colleagues on the ground to go to places. So, as we speak today, our UN, Red Cross, Red Crescent colleagues are in Sheikh Maksoud, which is a convoy with food to 22,500 people and it is just north of Aleppo. We were in Afrin which was also in the Aleppo area in last week, and also in Jiroud in rural Damascus today. So today 62,000 people will be reached in (inaudible) combat zones, but you know we are hanging in by our fingernails in these areas. If the fighting continues, it won’t be possible to be able to keep up even the delivery we have today. So our appeal is to our colleagues in the Cessation of Hostilities taskforce and all of its Member States to go back on track with a cessation of hostilities because that is needed for the humanitarian work. (inaudible). I would not comment on individual Member States’ work and this is the work of the cessation of hostilities area. In our area, I would say, humanitarian wise, the Member States, including the co-chairs, have been able to help our access and we regret that they have not been able to help us with the cessation of hostilities that we need.
Q. You asked a couple of weeks ago for approval of airlifts. If the ground conditions continue to make it impossible to reach those places, did you get approvals for airlifts? I know you’re being reluctant to incur the expense, but do you have any particular plan to activate that plan?
YEH. All options to deliver humanitarian assistance are on the table. We use cross-border access, we use cross-line access, we use regular program access, and that is why we are able, every month to reach millions of people with humanitarian assistance. Yes it is more difficult and challenging when it comes to besieged areas and that is the reason why we have a taskforce composed of no less than 20 countries trying to actually overcome the obstacles there. Airdrops or air bridges is another mode of delivery and in fact as you know we are using this quite effectively since the 10th of April in Deir Ez-Zor where we have 110,000 people totally besieged, and who we had not been able to reach for over a year, but since the 10th of April, we have been able, through the excellent work by the World Food Programme (WFP) to operate these high altitude airdrops. These are from very high in the sky but they actually work with precision. We are just about to launch an air bridge into Qamishli from Damascus. The reason for this is that we have run out of meaningful means to reach people over land. This is in the Al Hasakeh governorate in the north-eastern corner of Syria. We are not able to move or operate over land any delivery of humanitarian assistance and hence our resort to this last measure, this last costly measure, and that is an air bridge that would bring life-saving assistance to a very large number of people in that corner. This also leaves the recently-much-deliberated-upon option of delivering through air to besieged areas. We have made a request in this regard early this month, if we are not able to reach the besieged locations which had either been rejected or partially, or conditionally approved. We said if we can’t reach them by land, we would want to reach them by helicopter, another costly undertaking, but a means of delivery. Luckily, through the passing period in June we have been able to reach all those locations over land, that is Darayya, Douma and Mouadhimiyeh, in rural Damascus, and Al-Waer in Homs. The preference is for land deliveries. Why? Apart from the cost implications (it is much more cost effective), it is also possible for us to deliver to the entire population at once. It took the WFP probably two months to deliver a one-month supply of food to 110,000 people, whereas if we had the opportunity to reach this population over land, we would have done it in one operation, probably maximum in three days, because it would be a very huge convoy to move, but it would have been possible to cater for all in three days, as opposed to two months. That gives you immediately the fact that all options are on the table, but we also – and I spoke earlier about the resource constraints- we are funded at 20 percent, and this is June. Where we can reach people through the most cost-effective and comprehensive way, we will do it, and that’s the land option, where we have to resort to other measures such as the airdrops in Deir Ez-Zor, or the air bridge in Qamishli, or possibly other modes of air delivery, we will have to resort to it. That request was not approved but what we were able to do was to reach the same locations through land delivery, and that is for us the bottom line.
Note to Correspondents
Statement by Staffan De Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria,
At Informal Briefing to the General Assembly (As Delivered)
21 June 2016
Mr. President, Excellencies,
Thank you for the invitation to join Stephen O’Brien and Ivan Simonovic at this meeting. I will obviously defer to both Stephen and to Ivan on the subjects of their own competence and professional knowledge. And I will still refer to the linkages that exist between my own mission - on behalf of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretary-General – and those of the humanitarian and human rights. In other words everything seems to be connected. As I have said in the past, when we look at Syria it is as if we are looking at the moment at a table with three legs: one is the cessation of hostilities, the reduction of violence, the other is the humanitarian access to all Syrians wherever they are, and the third one is the political process or political transition, as we all now recognise it in order to maintain each one of the three legs moving and stable.
Since I last briefed you last November, in fact through your own initiative Mr. President, there have been quite a lot of changes and significant -frankly- developments. We need to recognize them because the moment when we only look at the glass half-full or half-empty, in this case we can see that there have been some developments which should give us hope and more energy to push forward because in Syria, a glass half-full is not enough.
Number one, we have had the establishment of an International Syrian Support Group (ISSG). Now, this is co-chaired by the US and the Russian Federation, (and) includes all regional actors and beyond, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. This, one year ago, was unthinkable. We didn’t have any contact group. So that’s a move in the right direction and certainly in support to what we are trying as a mission.
Second, we have had two Security Council resolutions endorsing a political roadmap and a timetable. We didn’t have any. We just had the Geneva communique and some generic Security Council resolutions. These two, in particular 2254, are very precise.
Three, we have had a four-month long cessation of hostilities, of which the first two months were almost 90 percent. They were co-sponsored by the ISSG and in particular by the two ISSG co-chairs, the Russian Federation and the US. And that saved many lives. We have been counting how many are dying or used to die every day, and how many, luckily, were spared during that period. We have had two ISSG Taskforces now functioning in Geneva, where the international community is in a position, if they want it, when they want it (they have been doing it quite often), to push forward on improved access and preserving the cessation of hostilities, or limiting when the cessation of hostilities was in major danger.
There has been greater international cooperation on the fight against Daesh. Just look at the latest developments when in fact from the North and from the South, there have in both cases some military moves towards Raqqa. It’s difficult, but it’s taking place.
There has been progress on building a more cohesive opposition. As you know, many of us have been complaining and worried about the fact that the opposition was excessively divided or certainly not on the same page. There has been the High Negotiating Commission, and there has also been an understanding by everyone that the instructions I got from Security Council resolution 2254 is for a broadly inclusive, I repeat, inclusive, and representative political process; and progress, even if timid, in trying to reach some kind of common understanding or commonalities. That’s what we have been doing during the last two rounds – depending on how many we want to count them but we count them as two- of intra-Syrian talks, which resumed in Geneva under the UN auspices in January.
This, in addition to the fact that, thanks to the ISSG push and tireless work of the UN teams on the ground, that have produced quite more access than we used to have to the besieged areas. Remember, one year ago, Mr. President, the number of besieged areas reached by the UN was zero. This year we are reaching, and you will hear it from Stephen O’Brian, more than around 300,000 people in besieged areas. The delivery of emergency aid is obviously for the Syrian people, the first sign that whatever talks or meetings we have in Geneva do have an impact on every day life, including the reduction of violence. All this to prove that when the international community is having a common line, we can delivery on all fronts: the political, the humanitarian and the reduction of violence does remain united. We can deliver on all fronts, including the political one.
Yet, despite what I’ve been telling you, we are now facing a difficult moment. The cessation of hostilities, which started very well and quite impressively, almost within hours, 72 hours, you could see a radical change in the level of violence, and which was particularly effective during the first two months, which led to a drastic reduction of casualties, has been now heavily challenged, especially in and around Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia and some of the areas surrounding in the neighbourhood of Damascus. But it has been holding in many other areas. We are not in a place where the cessation of hostilities has broken down, but it is in danger of becoming worse and therefore reaching that. So far, that’s not the case but we are concerned. Access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas has definitely improved, but of course this is not near the pace and the volume required to address the needs of all Syrians. Plus, there is one area where we are concerned and we have been saying it ourselves at the ISSG. There has been a trend in the last weeks that the very areas where there has been a breakthrough of delivering humanitarian aid to besieged areas have been then shelled before or after the convoys have reached or departed, and that has been a bad news.
In adopting resolution 2254, coupled with 2268, the Security Council has made it clear, abundantly clear, that only a negotiated political solution can bring an end to this conflict, not a military victory or a military defeat, which is clearly not possible, for anyone. Five years, almost six years, have proven that this is impossible and unreachable by anyone. The resolution further acknowledged the close link between a nationwide ceasefire and a parallel political process. Let me clarify and I know you all feel the same. There is a connection between the confidence-building measure of a cessation of hostilities, which then favours and helps the access of humanitarian aid and the feeling among those who come to Geneva to discuss a political process, that they can justify to their own people, to the Syrian people, that sitting in Geneva for a month, three weeks, and talking about a political process is immediately, at the same time, bringing some benefit for the Syrian people. Progress therefore on the cessation of hostilities, will drastically improve the conditions on the ground, leading to significant scaling up of humanitarian delivery. When there is less fighting, humanitarian delivery has more access. More access means more confidence. More confidence means also for the people who want to look at the political process, to believe in it. This important inter-linkage has been constantly very present in our minds. That is why it is important for the two ISSG taskforces to progress -- because they are conducive to making our intra-Syrian talks meaningful and credible.
Since the Ministerial-level ISSG meeting in Munich on 11 February, the UN and partners were able to reach, and you will hear it from Stephen so I won’t go into detail, 16 besieged locations, many more than once. I am acutely aware that the access we have today can easily end tomorrow and that we should avoid the syndrome of the “stop-and-go,” “stop-and-go,” or good news one day (one day before we have a meeting in Geneva), and then bad news between that meeting and the next. That’s why we believe that what is required and is fair to request, is safe, unhindered and unimpeded access as the Security Council resolution unanimously referred to. We are conscious however, and so are the Syrians when we talk to them, and as you know we do meet them regularly, that only progress on the political front will deliver a sustainable long-term solution and therefore ensure the immediate lifting of all sieges and everything else that is affecting Syrian people.
So let’s talk about the talks for a moment. The last round concluded on 27 April. During that period of two weeks, both the Government of Syria and the opposition spelled out their own respective visions for a political transition in greater detail. Now the good news, most encouragingly, at this stage, is that for the first time all sides, I repeat, all sides, accepted the need for a “political transition”. Yet, while common grounds exist particularly on what Syria would look like with some shared principles, disagreements do remain stark on the question over the devolution of any type of Presidential authority. While the opposition insists on the creation of a Transitional Governing Body with full executive powers, as indicated, as you know, in the Geneva Communique, the Government of Syria envisages the formation of a broad-based government of national unity. Whatever the name and whatever the shape, it is ultimately decided by the Syrians. It needs to reflect a commitment to a real political transition, and that’s where the challenge is with us as the UN and as governments in order to try to see whether we can find a formula by which we can respect both the Geneva Communique and the (SC) resolution 2254.
Drawing from those discussions, I have further identified a list of core issues to be addressed in greater detail in the next round, which as you know I have postponed until I have some form of reassurance that at least the two co-chairs have a common ground on which we can start working. You may argue, why do we need the two co-chairs? The answer is the two co-chairs were able to prepare the ground for the cessation of hostilities, which was then regionally accepted by everyone including Syria - by the government of Syria and by the opposition forces. So when they agree and the ISSG agrees, we have a critical mass on which the UN can produce the follow up and the sustainable solution. So I have been identifying a group of core issues to be identified in great detail at the next round when – I know the question will come up – well, I’ll consider that in July. Not yet, not now because it is premature with the current discussions and the current situation.
We have summarized all this in what we called the “Mediator’s Summary”, and in particular Annex I, which I’m sure you have access to -- the document that has been circulating amongst the Security Council members as well. These include defining the composition of the relevant transitional governance arrangements, how to reform the military and security apparatus, and how to practically establish a calm, neutral environment that assures the safety of all during the political transition. ISSG Ministers on 17 May encouraged the parties to re-engage constructively on this basis. My team has since embarked on a series of technical talks, which waiting for the official form of talks to take place, with the parties get deeper on these very issues ahead of the next formal round of talks. Meetings have already been held in Moscow and Cairo and planned for next week in Riyadh and also in Damascus.
Meanwhile, we have continued our sustained engagement with the Women’s Advisory Board and civil society organisations, which are important constituencies that have not been shy at all from open debate on very challenging topics including governance, and that’s exactly what we hope to hear.
Having said that, political talks cannot proceed effectively while hostilities are escalating and civilians are starving. In April, we have seen a marked deterioration in the situation on the ground, both in terms of fighting and humanitarian access.
As you will surely hear from USG O’Brien, partly due to air-drops and after several really very bad weeks of humanitarian access in the country, we have recently seen substantial progress. The progress has been helped of course by effective diplomatic work by members of the task force, including systematic efforts – and we have to give them credit – both by the two co-chairs, Russian Federation and the United States, but also by the courageous and commendable work by our humanitarian colleagues on the ground and partners. And some increased, indeed, cooperation by the Government of Syria.
Unfortunately, and despite sustained efforts by the two co-chairs, I cannot say the same as regards to the cessation of hostilities. While the overall level of fighting continues to be below – I repeat below - the level prior to the ceasefire in January, there has been a worrying escalation of fighting in several areas.
Meanwhile, ISSG statements have progressively reinforced the linkages with the political process, and the need to advance on the agenda set out by resolution 2254. Yet, parallel discussions amongst key international and regional players have yet to yield an understanding on the speed and depth of the political transition.
The dilemma remains the same: how to ensure "meaningfulness and irreversibility of the political transition" and a widely acceptable process, without causing abrupt shock, trauma, catastrophe, in the system in Syria.
Humanitarian access will remain the most pressing, obvious and visible way by which the UN and the international community can and must make a difference on the ground. Syrians yet expect more of this from us. Syrians need to hear news of their missing persons, of those imprisoned and detained. They need to hear that bombardment and shelling have reduced or completely stopped. That’s what they are hoping and asking us every time we meet them.
And they expect that we break through the misplaced logic of a military solution. There is no reason to wait for new developments to take place. It has been abundantly proven that any type of military solution is out of the question. No one should think or dream that by gaining time, a military solution will make a difference.
Some argue that we should not be bound by artificial deadlines. For instance August, which has been a date indicated by the two co-chairs. August is an artificial deadline but it’s a serious deadline. It prepares for a new General Assembly debate, which will unavoidably touch on Syria and it is also the last General Assembly on which this Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be reporting on Syria. It will certainly be the opportunity for all of you – all of us – to prove to the world that the movement that has taken place can have a positive development. So the August timeline is very much present for us in view of the September timetable.
The window of opportunity is quickly coming to a close unless we keep alive the cessation of hostilities, we increase humanitarian aid and come to some kind of understanding about political transition. This way, hopefully in July we can have intra-Syrian talks, not about principles but about concrete steps towards political transition. This is what we aimed at and what we hope we will be able to reach.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Near-verbatim transcript of press stakeout by
UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura
Geneva, 9 June 2016
My apologies but I just finished a long and intense discussion at the Humanitarian Taskforce and in view of the fact that there are so many issues coming up and being discussed, I had to stay until the end, of course, so my apologies for keeping you waiting.
One or two general comments and then of course I will also address some issues related not only to the humanitarian aspect because it is only fair that we do so, since I am wearing today both hats, since Jan Egeland is abroad.
One general thing is that being this the holy month of Ramadan, we were, we are and we will continue hoping that this may be a month in which humanitarian access would be particularly an element of attention.
Now let me address the humanitarian aspect first of all and the discussion we just had at the Humanitarian Taskforce. We were informed by our team in Damascus that basically there’s been permission - an approval, that terminology for it - by the government of Syria, for all 19 besieged areas. That's good news, by the end of June. [Clarification: There are currently 19 besieged locations in Syria. The UN has not received approvals for 19 besieged locations as mentioned during today's stake-out. Of the 19 locations, 17 were requested as part of the June plan. The UN has now received written
Of course, you know very well that approval, and we know very well, does not mean delivery. So there are a lot of actions that need to take place between an approval and delivery, including the possibility of not being stopped at the last moment at a road block; including the fact that medicines are not being pulled out; including the fact that at a certain point there will not be an indication that the quantity that was meant is not what will be allowed. But let’s be honest and frank. The information that 19 besieged locations [Note: see clarification above], during the Holy Ramadan, will be an opportunity for the approval and therefore, hopefully, delivery, is something that was acknowledged by the taskforce.
In the next few hours, we hope to see some of that approval to actually become concrete. That is the test, of course, as always. And particularly for Darayya and Douma and we hope also some movement on Kefraya and Fouah, in terms of the mission that the UN is expected for a long time to do on that location.
Now the bad news is that we did have information, and you must have seen it too, that just when we are looking so carefully on approval and delivery to Darayya, the very place Darayya, according to many reports and we are asking for even further information, was heavily shelled. In particular the mosque on the month of Ramadan. That has made some of the members of the taskforce make the following comment: is it then true that whenever there is an approval, there is also a punishment? Because it is not the first time that there has been this type of incident.
We feel, I feel, that that should be one more reason for increasing the pace of assistance to places like Darayya and if there is a pattern of coincidence with approvals and shelling, then that should be addressed by the ISSG.
The other element that was extremely concerning and I want to refer to it is the heavy bombing of hospitals. Not just any kind of hospitals, but children’s hospitals and children hospitals in Aleppo. And that has been raised publicly, strongly, and fairly by UNICEF and that is a bad signal.
So, one good signal, [the possible] 19 locations approval, of course the proof is in concrete facts, that is delivery. Bad signal and bad moment, bombing and shelling of Darayya and heavy shelling of pediatric hospitals in Aleppo.
So far 270,250 people in besieged areas have been reached, so let me show you the latest table. Here it is, you can see, it does indicate some facts, and those facts have to be acknowledged, and much of this is due, first of all, to the intense work of our team in Damascus and certainly of the influence of the ISSG which does have an impact. As Yacoub el Hillo was reminding us last year there was 50 [inter-agency convoys], the year before 30 convoys, here there are 80. Is that enough? No. Should we be pushing more? Yes. Should we be making sure that approval becomes reality? Definitely so.
Now let me move to another element which came up at the Humanitarian Taskforce: vaccinations. There has been a lot of very good work done by UNICEF, WHO and all the partners in Syria including the Ministry of Health who have been actively involved. The action has been taking place in many places. Now the coverage in those places have reached almost 70 percent. It used to be down to 40 percent, which is terribly dangerous as you know. I used to work for UNICEF. The coverage now has reached 900,000 children below five. Now, who is still not covered? And here, you know, we go back to the reality of Syria. About the same number of 900,000 children and where are they? In besieged areas or in areas which are currently affected by conflict. And if you look at the map here, you will see those circles, those are actually areas where we are having humanitarian concerns, but they do coincide also with areas of non-cessation of hostilities activities.
My concern for vaccination is also eastern Aleppo and no surprise for that, and then areas that we cannot reach because they are under the control of people like ISIS or Daesh, like Raqaa or some areas around Deir ez-Zor.
Now let me address two other points which are linked to humanitarian subjects, and then go to some of the political aspect. We are, as you know, very actively, constantly monitoring the aspect of detainees, and those who have been abducted. We did get the information today from one main source but we would like to have more information that some substantial number of fighters appeared to have been released and we are waiting for those details. They may coincide with the Holy month of Ramadan or as a unilateral decision and gesture by the government to want to show intention of addressing, or beginning to address what is a huge concern and huge problem. We are talking about thousands and thousands, you heard.
And we have also been informed by the Russian Federation that they have been ending the demining of about 26 square kilometers of Palmyra, which means that people entirely could or should start coming back. We have information that up to 1500 people have actually returned and we are obviously looking forward to be able to assist anyone who does return to a place which has been devastated by Daesh.
Now talks. I have informed the Security Council just a few days ago, it was an internal meeting but that was something that I can reveal, that time is not yet mature for official third round of the Intra-Syrian talks. We are intending and we want to do it as soon as possible. No doubt about that. The stressing word is “as soon as possible” but particularly the world “possible.” Why? Because we are award that a third round needs to be a concrete one. I have been told by my own predecessors that anything we should do, we should to do avoid the Geneva 3 with no concluding points.
We want to give maximum chances for a concrete outcome. And what is concrete outcome? A beginning of a political transition. That means to have this type of critical mass, which has been discussed, is being prepared, in terms of discussion, not only by us, but by major countries. But in my opinion, based on my assessment, this is not yet the moment.
So what do we do? Well, we continue preparing for that. And how to do that? By having instead a further type of approach, which is what we call “technical meetings.” Technical meetings, which are not going to take place in Geneva [so you can take your leave, at least during these coming very few days], because we want to keep them low profile. We want to have them at a very technical level. I will not be involved. It will be members of my team who will be actually moving to various locations in order to be able to have those technical discussions with anyone who has been mentioned in the resolution 2254 or anyone who we feel are usefully contributing to preparing the talks.
Meanwhile, we will be also waiting for more progress on other type of discussions that are taking place and the aim is still and I maintain this word: first of August. First of August is attainable. Should be attainable, and we should be aiming at that one because at the end of the day, that's a date which has been put as a target date, but not just for anything but for beginning of a serious concrete message in terms of political transition.
I have not raised with you the issue of air drops, air lifts, and I think I owe it to you. So let me qualify something because it was discussed. [On] the fifth of June there was an official request to the government for air bridges, air drops and air lifts. Each of them are meant to be responding to one form or the other of access when land access is not possible. To give an example, air lifts for Qamishli. Air drops are taking place to Deir ez-Zor, we already had several, and air lifts were requested. By air lifts we mean helicopters landing, because you can’t do it elsewhere, to Darayya, Mouadhimiyeh, and Al-Waer, just to mention some. The UN has not backtracked, I heard some reports about it and that's really unfair.
The UN and myself, and I said it to the Security Council, have not backtracked on any of those options. We heard today, Ertharin Cousin the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. She was very clear in indicating that they have a plan and they have prepared a plan for all three options: air bridges, air drops and air lifts. She reminded everyone that of course in order to do that safely and properly, you need government permission. But that is obvious. We need if for land transport. You think the trucks don't need government permission? We just go like that? So it is clear. But what you need to know and I want to state, that what we are seeing is, at the moment, that through this strong and clear option based on the Vienna decision, we have seen approval of land access, 19 of them [see clarification above]. And that the issue of air lifts, air bridges and air drops is still an option, remains an option, must remain an option because all options must be on the table in order to make sure that one way or the other of course we prefer land, cheaper, quicker, faster - Darayya is 10 Kilometers - but it remains on the table. So, we do not have any interpretation about backtracking.
I am ready for some questions.
Questions and Answers
Q. Could you elaborate a little bit more on this permission that had been given by the government. Do you have a date? When you say by the end of June, is there a precise date or precise week? And is permission not only for access by land but also for access by air? Does it include all the options?
Special Envoy: Thank you. What we call the permission or the authorization (let’s see what the real word that has been used, because it can become bureaucratic at some point) because one thing is getting the actual permission and the other thing is actually getting a letter authorizing the actual delivery. The first step is an approval of a permission, and that approval of the permission, which needs then to be followed by a letter of authorization, which needs then to be followed by a group of government officials to go to the hangar and verify what is in the trucks which then needs to be verified through the check points when they try to get into Darayya and elsewhere where there are people that should not stop it again. But the first one is permission and that has been granted to 19 besieged locations[see clarification above]. That is for land access.
Now as I said the issue and aim has been said by everyone including Ertharin Cousin, is to aim at land access, because if we can get it by land we can do what can be done with 200 air drops in one simple, long convoy.
Now the second point is June, within June. That is where we will be watching very carefully so also the Humanitarian Taskforce on how this becomes concretely delivery during the month of June. If that doesn't take place then as we said all options are and should and will be on the table.
Q. Can I ask for more elaboration and clarification on the detainees situation. You mentioned a large number of fighters, by whom, which side, when ,where, that kind of things. Secondly on the question of air drops. We heard, I think Jan Egelandsaid several times that he expects the ISSG to force the issue somehow. Reading between the lines, is anyone talking about a Chapter 7 here? Have you heard this phrase used among the members of the ISSG?
Special Envoy: The short answer to the second point is No. The ISSG and I have not heard the word chapter 7. What I do know because I was there through video conference, is that the Security Council had addressed the issue and we had a long intense debate on it.
Now, regarding the fact that in Vienna there was a decision agreed by everyone that the option of air lifting, air dropping or air bridging should be on the table and actively kept on the table is still valid. But if that one, by being valid and being prepared and being an option and being even a plan for it produced land access, I repeat, that obviously is the best option even for the people because they get much more.
Now, regarding your first point, the detainees. I learned it from the Russian side. You may want to ask them for more information. There was something issued by the Syrian side. We have asked like you for more information in order to be able to assess if these people are genuine fighters, political prisoners, (inaudible) and what were they doing and where were they before. But as a matter of intellectual honesty, I am quoting this information. If you learn more, let me know too.
Q. I just have a question on air drops. I think when we spoke a month ago the notion behind it had to do with leverage to an extent, and it still seems to be the case. But if air drops require government permission as well, what kind of leverage do you have and is there any air drops scenario involving some besieged areas that doesn't require government permission, where the ISSG unilaterally can say we are doing this without the Assad government giving us the green light?
Special Envoy: the answer is, to my knowledge, there is no place inside Syria that does not require the permission, because as you know the air space is an area which can be controlled quite effectively. You may do cross border sometimes and not have the same level of control but needs to have a benign blessing from the government in charge of that country.
Regarding the fact that of what happens if there is no permission. I think we should leave it to the ISSG who actually did decide particularly the two co-chairs and frankly if that means that they will have to take up their own decision and see what to do about it. So far, it has, at least on face value, produced the approval for land delivery to 19 locations [see clarification above]. Then we don't speculate, we work on facts.
Special Envoy [comment before next journalist asked a question]: Before you ask a question, you should be aware – because of where you come from – that at the ISSG, myself and every member around the delegations there – even those that don’t always agree with Turkey – did express deep condolences and I felt that it was correct towards the tragic events that took place in Istanbul.
Q. Thank you very much. You talked about “technical talks” when are going to start, and you mentioned in various places, could you could also tell us where are these places, and I also wonder are those for both sides, the government and the opposition and some other parties will join those technical talks, as you mentioned at a lower level. Thank you.
Special Envoy: Well the advantage, as you know, of proximity talks is that you have proximity opportunities. The advantage that they can start later, earlier and we don't have a catastrophe in Geneva with suddenly the conference is failing. And the advantage of technical talks is that they are much lower level, they are not really official, so there is a lot more flexibility but it will go into substantive aspects that may be not the core of the issue, that can only be discussed at the official talks, but going to more technical details. What could happen with the Syrian army one day if and when we hope we would be having a peaceful solution? What will happen with the local institutions, which we do not want them to end up like in Libya or Iraq? This type of technical discussions.
They will be taking place not in Geneva. They will be moving in locations where we will be finding those technicians on the other side. And they are, you can guess, some are probably in Riyadh, some others are most likely also in Damascus, the government, and perhaps some people in Cairo, Moscow or elsewhere. The good thing about technical teams is that they can meet anywhere and that doesn't give any political signal or any political conclusion.
Q. I just wondered if you could clarify a little bit the threshold you are setting for bringing talks here in August. You are asking specifically for a commitment to what? And to the extent that people participated in the proximity talks on the basis of discussion of a political solution, what are you doing to make this a more concrete prospect?
Special Envoy: I will not go too much into details I hope you will understand that. What I can tell you is that the parameters for making sure that the next round of talks, which needs to take place, which I want them to take place as soon as possible, but in order to be effective, need to also give me the perception that there is some concrete intentions and critical mass for producing this time political transition steps. Second, the atmospherics in order to have successful talks need to be as you know, accompanied by an improvement on the security environment and on the humanitarian environment because now it is recognized by everyone including Vienna, which not by accident addressed those two points first, that if we are having further deterioration of the cessation of hostilities and we have a non-improvement or even worse going backwards on the humanitarian side, that will not contribute for the talks to be successful.
Thank you and good bye.
Near Verbatim Transcript
Joint press stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and
UN Senior Adviser, Jan Egeland
Geneva, 26 May 2016
Special Envoy de Mistura
Good afternoon. I am going to address two points and then I will leave it to my friend and colleague, Jan, to actually go deeper on this. But the two points that I would like to address is 1) the issue of the air drops, which was amply and at length discussed today by the HTF and with the participation by VTC of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. And secondly, the fact that I am addressing this afternoon the Security Council, therefore the implications that you may have or one of the questions that you may have, which is when will be the next talks take place. So these are the two points which I would like to address.
Now, on air drops, point number one. It was a clear decision by the Vienna recent meeting that if by the first of June there would not be a movement on some of the many areas, which need to be reached by land, which remain the priority, the cheapest, the most effective, the most deliverable - also because you can imagine that six weeks of air drops is like one convoy by land - but if areas both besieged by the government or by the opposition, such as Kefraya and Foua, or by the government such as Darayya and Moadameya, are not accessible, the option of air drops, air lifting, air bridging should be taken seriously into account.
Based on that, WFP did an excellent work, as usual, in preparing concretely some plans and working on those plans, in order to be able to educate, inform all the members of the ISSG who are responsible for the delivery of what they indicated was going to be an option. What are the conditions, what are the best situation, what are the costs and so on?
It is clear from the briefing that we got from the WFP Executive Director that in order for the air drops in particular to become concrete, either by delivery at high altitude, like has been and is been done in Deir ez-Zor, or by helicopters, landing where in fact there is no possibility of doing safe air dropping, there is a need for the cooperation of the government of Syria. And by the way the government of Syria has cooperated very happily and with a lot of energy for the air drops in Deir ez-Zor, which has reached 110,000. And has authorized and cooperated with the Iranian military authorities for air drops or air lifts by helicopters of Iranian military to the two locations of Kafraya and Foua. So the logic would be, since they are all Syrian civilians, Syrian people, the same type of authorization would be expected to be delivered for other places where Syrian civilians are present, such as Darayya, such as Moadameyah and Duma.
By the way, there are credible reports that we heard today that areas such as Moadameyah, there is a report of already beginning of severe malnutrition among children. And perhaps even in Al-Wa'er. So this should put even further a sense of urgency.
Now, we still believe that the best way is to do it by road, but the option of air drops, air lifts are and needs to be concretely there.
Last point, if we are able and authorized again to reach 110,000 people with seven hundred tons with air lifting, air dropping at high altitude to a location called Deir ez-Zor, where in fact all the people have been now reached with sufficient food for one month, and this is a joint operation with Russian pilots, WFP planes, US funding and cooperation, US parachutes and the contributions from countries like Netherlands, like Germany like many others, there is no reason, no excuse that we should not be in a position of arguing strongly and pushing for having similar or equivalent type of access in order to reach every other civilian wherever they are inside Syria.
Now the talks, I am going to report to the Security Council this afternoon what is my own assessment, on behalf of the Secretary-General, on the current situation. So, I am going to discuss, and ask and consult the Security Council regarding what would be the best option for the resumption of the talks. So, I am not in a position now to tell you when they will be announced, but I am going to be in a position of doing so after I briefed and consulted, as it should be, the Security Council this afternoon.
The floor is yours, Jan and then there will be questions, obviously.
Thank you Staffan. The month of May continues to be much more difficult than we have hoped. May was supposed to be a good month. We were supposed to have procedures with the government and with armed opposition groups that would make it possible for us to reach a million people by land in addition to the 110,000 people by air in Deir-ez Zor. Of the one million people that we have planned and tried to reach by land in May, we have only so far reached 160,000. So we need to reach a lot of places in the remaining days of May and before the 1st of June for this to be anywhere near what we had hoped. Even in areas where we had full approval from the government, there has been infinite problems in actually reaching the places. And in others where we had conditional approvals like Darayya and Duma, we haven’t been able to reach the people at all. We are still failing the people of Darayya, as we are failing the people of Moadamyia and Al-Waer. Those are indeed three places, I would say that the situation is still horrendously critical. Children are so malnourished in these places that they will be dying if we are not able to reach them -- Darayya, Moadamyia and Al-Waer. There are however a lot of important humanitarian activities happening, and it is happening in a more difficult security climate as well. There is more fighting, there is more bombing, there is more infighting in many areas and that has made it much more difficult to be an aid worker.
The UN colleagues in Aleppo have to move from place to place to be able to survive in [and] being present in Aleppo. The UN hub has been repeatedly hit. And we have in some places been denied going there because the access route was not cleared or was not safe or there was fighting in these places. We need an end to hostilities to be able to reach many of these places.
However, we are proceeding with vaccination campaigns. Unicef and WHO reported a massive ongoing effort, and it’s going in government controlled areas, in opposition groups controlled areas and even in the so-called Islamic State controlled areas. All together we hope to reach two million children through the Unicef/WHO efforts. 1,400 teams are being prepared to go even in cross border trainings to be able to reach our goals. It’s a massive effort and we hope it will be successful. The next few weeks will decide. Thank you.
Questions and Answers:
Question: Question for Mr. de Mistura about the Security Council. Will you be asking for extension, my understanding is that your deadline for an agreement is 1 August, we have the month of Ramadan and time is running out for talks now, what is the range of possibilities? You say you will announce when talks will happen, can you give us the range of ideas? Also about air drops, you said that the Syrian government will need to give you an agreement, they didn’t agree to trucks, why would they agree to air drops?
Special Envoy de Mistura: Well, let me start with the second point then the first one. It is WFP clearly indicated that as a standard procedure, in order to get the air drops by commercial planes to move forward and be insured, there is as a standard procedure, the need of a clearance, the permission of the government in question, whatever the government and the location is. From that point of view it is a standard procedure. Now, that doesn't mean at all that if the government decides to say no, both to air drops, air lifts and land convoys as it had done often, there will not be an opportunity which we intended to raise, and I personally will raise with the Co-Chairs, to actually ensure that they find a way to maintain what was a decision by the Co-Chairs - Russia and the US - in Vienna, proposed by every country around, to ensure that either way the food needs to start reaching everyone.
I mentioned today that in my knowledge of many years of professional involvement, 45, as you know, 46, I never met one single fighter or one single soldier starving, never, anywhere in the world. But there are plenty of civilians at the moment in danger of starving and they happen to be all Syrian civilians - in Deir ez-Zor, in Darayya, in Kafraya, in Foua, in Moadameyah. And the time has come, and I think that was the main news of Vienna. It was not that the talks have been postponed, but it was actually that the international community was feeling the guilt, the pressure to actually make sure that just listing a number of cities to be reached through humanitarian aid is not any more enough.
Regarding the first point, I (inaudible) that I am going to ask for the Security Council to guide me, because number 1 there is a sense of urgency in having the talks resumed, because we need to keep the momentum. But those talks in order to be credible, based again on the Vienna decision, need to have a credible ground, based on humanitarian improvement and on cessation of hostilities improvement and stabilization.
The date of August is there and remains there. Does it mean that we need be in hurry, the answer is yes, but August is there.
Last point, Ramadan. With great respect that we all have and we should have for the holy month of Ramadan, the message is: if people in the region are capable and willing to fight during Ramadan, which unfortunately has been often the case in the past, I don't think we should not expect them to talk at least about peace, or give a chance to talk about peace in Ramadan. So Ramadan will not be a factor.
Q. Yesterday the Syrian Kurds opened a bureau, an office, in Paris and they said they were on their way to implement a (inaudible) of the Federation, so you already told us that the Syrian territorial unity has to be preserved. Apart from the cessation of hostilities and apart from the humanitarian situation, how critical could it be as an initiative to threaten the resumption of the talks?
Special Envoy de Mistura: I think that the resumption of talks will not be threatened by this type of affirmation or statement, because we have had them and will continue having them on the overall political transition which is as you know based on Resolution 2254. All the rest can be declarations by whoever wants to make a declaration but is not affecting and influencing our talks. You know very well that the issue about a Federal state is not on the agenda of the Intra-Syrian talks. It may be an issue that the Syrian people should be discussing or can discuss if and when they will be ready to discuss the issue of the future constitution. At this stage, it is not entering there.
Q. There were these attacks the other day on Jablah and Tartous. I just want to know what impact you see that this might have on the government’s willingness to return to the peace talks, given that these were government areas.
Special Envoy de Mistura: Well, I leave it to the government to comment on that. My hope is that this very tragic, very sad series of terrorist attacks which have been claimed by the way by a common enemy of everyone inside Syria, i.e. Daesh, will contribute at least to the sense of urgency in finding a political solution based on the Geneva communiqué so that everyone can focus then on what is a common threat, not only in Syria, but elsewhere, Daesh.
Q. This afternoon, what will be your message to the Security Council? Will you be trying to convince them to resume the talks by the end of this month, despite the challenges and the negative signs everywhere?
Special Envoy de Mistura: I know that you have a lot of respect for what we are trying to do, and I have a lot of respect for your profession. But you are asking me something impossible, that I tell you and the press before I tell who is actually I am supposed to report to, what I will be telling to them. So please wait until 7 p.m. and then the answer will be there. But anyway, it was a very good try.
Near Verbatim Transcript
Joint press stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and
UN Senior Adviser, Jan Egeland
Geneva, 19 May 2016
Regarding the cessation of hostilities, I would suggest that you look carefully on page one, the last part. You will see that regarding the support to making sure that things need to happen has increased substantially in terms of messaging. Then came the issue about humanitarian aid and that is linked to the Intra-Syrian talks and I will address that.
Let me be very frank. I was in the meeting -- I cannot reveal all the details but there was a profound unhappiness, I would say impatience, regarding the fact that not all the besieged areas were being reached and that we were constantly coming up with a reminder that all besieged areas need to be reached and that was not happening. And the last drop, let’s call it like this, was Darayya, when we very close to do so, and baby food was not reaching, stopped by grown-up, well fed soldiers, and those were stopping baby food to actually go to Darayya.
And that applies also to other places, such as Kafraya and Foua, where not the government, but armed opposition, has been stopping the UN to be able to go there, where we know that there are 20,000 at least people in need of assistance, an assessment of that.
So that was the triggering element. And there was an identification of areas where there, in fact, was an urgent need of showing that the patience of the international community in repeating constantly the besieged, medieval besieged technique/approach by the government and in some cases by the opposition and in one case by Daesh, need to be stopped.
Al-Wa'er, we have not reached it since March. Moadameyah substantial malnutrition, substantial problems there. Darayya, do I need to repeat it? There are 4,000 people there, we know it. There are civilians, there are children. And Kefraya and Foua, and Hasakah.
So the bottom line was, if by the first of June there is no substantial progress in humanitarian access to these areas, in particular, but of course aiming at all of them, then the option of air drops and air lifts, in other words, bringing even to those areas where can be airports, such as in the Hasakah area, needs to be concretely, solidly, seriously taken.
WFP, the World Food Programme, was tasked to prepare concretely for these air drops and air bridges. But you know and I know, we all know that WFP is a very serious organization of the UN which never says no. At the same time we need and it is clear, that the whole membership of the ISSG, in particular the Russian Federation and the US, should make that possible. And if WFP finds a problem in doing it, they should then be involved in making sure that it happens.
So the top priority is that one. Now of course when you look at Deir ez-Zor where in fact six weeks of air drops have been actually bringing the equivalent amount of food of one convoy, you will understand that the cost and the benefit of it, comparing to the airdrops by convoys on land is unquestionable. So the air drops are the last resort. But we are getting close to it, that is why we need to send a strong message, we, I mean the ISSG, and they did it.
It took a lot of effort to actually organize Deir ez-Zor, but that doesn't mean it cannot be done elsewhere.
Bottom line, it is clear that both the government and the opposition need to be, based on the decision of the ISSG, in no doubt, that if, by the first of June no progress on land deliveries take place, and both can do an effort on that, the air bridges, air drops will become the focus of the international community.
If the government is capable and ready to support the air drops to Deir ez-Zor and there are 110,000 people reached there, with the contribution by the Russian Federation, US, Canada, Netherlands and WFP organization, there is no reason, no excuse, to consider any other citizen, civilian, anywhere else, not deserving the same treatment. Hence the message of the ISSG.
Two other points, one which I am sure you are planning to ask me, and what about the Intra-Syrian talks and the dates for it? It was clear in the message that we discussed at the ISSG that the dates were left to me and to the Secretary-General of course, I report to the Secretary-General, and for me and the Secretary-General to inform the Security Council. Based on that, I can tell you that obviously we are in clear hurry to start re-introducing the next round of the Intra-Syrian talks but the message was clear: if we don't have the atmosphere conducive for increasing the cessation of hostilities tenure, which has gone down from 80, 85 to 50 [percent], and we do not get what we have been asking, and everyone has been asking, a substantial improvement on the humanitarian access, then the credibility of the next round of talks will be in question and I do not want to expose that. Therefore I am not going to give you a date, yet, but we will constantly adjust depending on the circumstances, bearing in mind that I am determined to call the Intra-Syrian talks soon, but there needs to be some type of message as a follow-up to what we have seen today and the other day in Vienna.
Last point, today, we did introduce to the Humanitarian Taskforce Eva Svoboda, who is the new Senior staff member assigned to the detainee and the abducted people issue, in order to be involved in supporting us, me, in following up on what is clearly a message that we got also from the ISSG if you look at the last paragraph.
I will give now the floor to you Jan, following that we are ready for questions.
Senior Advisor Egeland (JE): Thank you very much Staffan. Just a couple of additional points. One small glimmer of hope in the darkness which is now the humanitarian realities of Syria. Yesterday the besieged area of East-Harasta was reached with food and other humanitarian supplies for 10,000 people. The last time that this place was reached by the Red Cross/the Red Crescent and the UN and the partners involved was March 2013. We have now reached 13 out of the 18 besieged areas as compared to reaching two of the besieged areas of last year. But that is the end of the good news really, because May was, and is, one of the most difficult months we’ve had this year. We reached more than 40 percent of the people besieged last month with humanitarian supplies. This month of May, so far, we have maybe reached less than 5%. So it has to change and that is really the homework of the members of the ISSG. They have to change this reality. We were supposed to meet the needs of more than 900,000 people in May, that was our capacity, we are not even close to reaching half of that. We also asked to deliver the June plan today to the government, it is an even more ambitious plan, reaching more than 1,1 million people with inter-agency convoys. All of the people of the besieged areas and 750,000 people in so called hard to reach areas. Indeed the place of Al Wae’r is now meeting all of the criteria for being a besieged area. An infant died a couple of days ago because of malnutrition and lack of humanitarian supplies. Nowhere was the disappointment as big as it was in Darayya, when the convoy that we told you about exactly one week ago from the same podium, returned because of the soldiers not accepting the nutritional element, the famous baby milk powder, to go through. I can only imagine the disappointment of the mothers in site. The final image is that we have brought to the ISSG today is that we really have to stop that kind of images that too many have in Syria, that it is bad guys against bad guys, bad guys with arms shoot at other bad guys with arms. Besiegement means that well-fed bad guys keep food away from babies and mothers. That is the image of besiegement and that’s why we are happy that the ISSG say that all sieged have to be lifted, that is our ultimate goal. Thank you.
Questions and Answers
Question: On air drops, are you thinking that air drops or air bridges can go ahead over the objections of the Syrian government, if necessary? And also just to understand, are you saying that talks could be abandoned if the truce and the humanitarian situation does not improve sufficiently and where would that lead?
SdeM: Ok let me answer first the second point. Clearly talks are not going to be abandoned, frankly, ever, because they are the only avenue for a political solution. It is only a matter of timing and the timing is important in this case, because when we had 95% or 90% of cessation of hostilities, you remember, and humanitarian aid incrementally augmenting all the time, the atmosphere for making the talks credible became in every case much more effective. So we need to maximize that effect, and therefore I am waiting for the outcome of the first gestures or follow-up to this international gathering in Vienna, in order to be able to fix a date. The date cannot be too far, and we are taking into account Ramadan, but I am not announcing a date until I see some of this progress taking place in order to take that into account. Bottom line, we all know that there is no solution unless we have the talks. In other words, a political negotiation taking place. But we also know the humanitarian aid and cessation of hostilities alone cannot sustain themselves without the talks, the two come together.
Regarding the first point, I think, let’s see what is first of all the assessment by WFP. Let’s see what is the assessment and the involvement of the two Co-Chairs, who were part of the decision of indicating that the last resort but a concrete resort will be air dropping and air bridges, and then we go beyond that. So, I will not comment on anything else at this stage, will be speculative.
Q. (Interpreted from French into English): Mr. de Mistura you have mentioned the Ramadan month in Vienna, and today as well. If we don’t manage today to set up a date before the beginning of Ramadan we automatically have to wait until mid-July, and we will get closer to the deadline of August. What is you plan if we don’t manage to go through this? Will cessation of hostilities hold until then? What is the responsibility of the two co-chairs regarding this? Thank you.
SdeM (Interpreted from French into English): Our respect for Ramadan is huge, so we are fully conscious that Ramadan has an influence on all we do in the region in particular. But you are right, if people are willing to fight during Ramadan, there are no reasons why we shouldn’t have reliable people who could speak during Ramadan. So the question of Ramadan is only about the crucial dates at the beginning and the end that we have to respect, to be in the same time, able to continue the talks.
Question: I’m a little confused as to whether or not you still feel you have a negotiating partner on the humanitarian front. You go to Damascus and Mr. Egeland you previously mentioned getting provisional green lights to reach certain areas, then those pledges mean absolutely nothing when the convoys are on the road. So, where does that leave you now - other than where my colleague suggested – conducting airdrops without the government’s authority even if they say you can reach ‘x’ number of besieged areas? Those promises have already proven to be hollow.
SdeM: Well let me first, and then I think Jan should comment on that. You heard from Jan Egeland, we have reached a lot of people. It is not that nothing had happened. When you compare it to the past, it is quite substantial, but time passing by and there is a moment when we have been seeing that in spite of some permissions, there has been some back-tracking, both from the government and frankly from some areas of the opposition, so what you need, in this cases, you tell me, leverage, you need to upgrade the pressure, the message and the intentions. But of course what we have seen so far is reaching, at least, what, 250,000, 260,000 people in the besieged areas and we have been aiming at reaching more than a million together with the hard to reach areas. But leverage, pressure, meaning that we mean what we say, especially at the ISSG, is an important factor.
JE: I am among those who still think that it will improve now and I think that the option of air drops will actually help us get in much more by road, which is the one way we can save lives. Also in the places where we haven’t reached since March, Moadamyeh, is a place of 40,000 people, we reached them the last time in March. We need to be able to go there every month to avoid a horrible situation. You can drive to 14 out of the 18 besieged areas within an hour from Damascus. So we believe that the Russians and the Iranians, and the Americans and the Saudis, and others, who have influence on the ground in Syria, will now enable our land access and we do believe that the option of air drops will actually make it possible for us to go by land in the next weeks.
JE: I don't think anybody wants air drops really so that would enable us to go by land.
SdeM: What we mean “no one”, let me correct that otherwise they will misquote you. It is not that no one wants air drops. We want to bring aid to everyone. If the food cannot be brought by convoys, the alternative is air drops. But air drops is the most expensive, the most complicated, the most dangerous option and therefore we always aim at having first by land, but the option of air drops is clear and is there, and there is even a time table for it.
Question: I was wondering what your comment will be on Saudi Arabia’s “B Plan” if the cessation of hostilities does not get back on track? Do you have a comment on that?
SdeM: Well, I only am aware of Plan “A”. I am not aware of a plan “B” frankly. Plan “A” is the one we are trying all together through the ISSG and the international community to persue, which is the one based on the Security Council resolution 2254. Thank you.
Question: What was the “snag” in Vienna that prevented you from holding the round of talks ending June 9 in Geneva? I understand that came up on the table but wasn't agreed. Can you elaborate on that? And secondly I have a question to Mr. Egeland on the recent revelations of corruption by major aid agencies that are partners to providing aid to the Syrian people. I’m thinking of the suspension of three aid agencies by USAID. Is that a problem in such a serious situation? Thank you.
SdeM: On the first one, there was no “snag” really. What we all concurred that in order to be able to announce a fixed date for the renewal, resumption of the talks, we all agreed that the cessation of hostilities which had become fragile and in danger, and the humanitarian access which had become, through Darayya, and other examples, in danger, needed to be put in better condition, that’s all. And then the date will be fixed.
JE: The aid operation continues cross border and cross line, but both operations have increased problems because of insecurity and also being blocked by armed parties, government and even armed opposition groups. So, it has become more dangerous, more difficult, but humanitarian partners continue like before. I don't know the case.
SdeM: Regarding the consequences, if you read the statement, it is quite firm regarding the cessation of hostilities. And after every meeting like the one we had in Vienna, you must give the time for the percolation of the messaging from the big players, from the stakeholders to everyone else, so you should not expect them, no one expects a miracle the day after. But the message was quite clear, let’s see when it percolates. Regarding air drops and any other air operation, let us comment about it once WFP has made its assessment and b, once we will see whether the clear message about the air drops being a clear option will instead, as we hope, produce an increase of humanitarian aid by road. If it doesn't we will talk about it again, because the message was clear, it was not just a comment.
Thank you very much.
Near-verbatim Transcript Joint stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura
and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz
Vienna, 18 May 2016
[The statement below by the UN Special Envoy followed opening remarks
by the Austrian Foreign Minister]
Joint press stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura
with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Vienna, 17 May 2016
[Opening remarks by the Special Envoy followed statements made by US Secretary of State Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov]
What we mean by that? We mean that of course we are having Ramadan starting soon. We need to keep that in perspective. And we need to bear in mind that credible Intra-Syrian talks will become credible when, as you heard, there is a credible development on the cessation of hostilities and a credible improvement on the humanitarian side. So on all three elements, we had discussions and it has been a useful discussion for me, for the UN mandate.
On the cessation of hostilities side, you heard it, the main real difference is that what we used to have at 80 percent has come down to 50. But we need to bring it back [up] and there has been a strong effort and a common line on that. The main, and the very new element, apart from the willingness to address it, is the upgrading in Geneva of this operations center between Russian and American military experience. That's been extremely useful and we will test it now.
The second element is humanitarian aid. And on the humanitarian aid we are still not reaching those we want to reach. Out of 18 besieged locations - and by the way besieged areas is the closest to a medieval type of siege that we have seen in recent history - only [inaudible], not only, but 12 of them have been reached. So the concept and the idea has been approved that if we cannot reach them by land, as we have been doing together with the World Food Programme in Deir ez-Zor successfully, having a joint operation between the Russian Federation, US and other countries in dropping aid to 110,000 people. We need to start working hard in order to be able to look at the options within security limits. That's what we all have to work on to do actually the same thing everywhere else where we cannot get by land, unless we are allowed to go by land. That goes from Darayya, which has been so close to Damascus that there is no reason to stop baby food, to Kafraya and Foua, to every other locations.
That is I think a novelty and a new element which came out from this meeting. We would never have thought about it just a month ago.
Next point, and last, detainees and abductees because there are people who have been abducted by the opposition and detainees, which have been taken in large numbers by the government. We need and we will be addressing this aspect because the families are asking for it and the ISSG did take note of that with serious concern. So that is the next challenge.
Joint press stake-out with UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura and the Foreign Ministers of Germany and France
Berlin, 4 May 2016
Thank you so much for organizing this opportunity. Merci beaucoup pour être tous ensemble dans le même message. The message is very clear. I was the other day in Geneva where I met John Kerry and the Minister of Foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia. I was yesterday in Moscow to meet Sergei Lavrov the day before, and today in Berlin. The message is exactly the one we have been saying: there are priorities and the top one of the priority is the one that Syrian people are telling us. They are telling us we are looking for peace, we are looking for the end of this conflict, we believe in discussion in Geneva but we need to see with our eyes that the cessation of hostilities takes place again. And the test is Aleppo now. That’s why I hope through the security council meeting that we are going to have, through the meeting we had in Moscow and through the meeting which are taking place between also John Kerry and Lavrov, who are the co-sponsors of the cessation of hostilities, that we will see it happening. The alternative is truly quite catastrophic because we could see 400,000 people moving through the Turkish border. We could see what, at the moment, what looks like a possibility of a political transition to be actually handicapped by a cessation of hostilities, which is still there, could be collapsing. Bottom line, Aleppo. Aleppo. And I hope we’ll get there with your support and thank you for organizing this, this has been timely and appropriate.
Near Verbatim Transcript
Opening remarks by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura at the joint press stake-out with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov
Moscow, 3 May 2016