Transcript of Press Stakeout by Mr. Geir O. Pedersen United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, following his Briefing to the Security Council
Great to see you again. I have seen some of you virtually, but not in person now for 18 months, so it has been a long time. It is also the first time in 18 months that I actually sit down and have a discussion with the (Security) Council in person. It was good. I expressed my frustration at lack of progress on the political front, and I heard loud and clearly, that that’s a frustration shared by all members of the Security Council.
I also heard a very strong support for the work that I and my team are doing, and I hope that it will materialise then in the ways I mentioned in the briefing. And you heard me saying that we need a new approach. We need to find a new way to cooperate internationally. And I said we need to do that in a step-for-step manner which is precise, is reciprocal, and is verifiable.
And I also indicated to the Council that after being here today, I told the Council that I will be leaving for Rome, where I will be seeing quite a number of foreign ministers that have been invited by the United States and Italy. And after that I hope soon to be able to go to Moscow to continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and his team. And then of course, also being in close touch with Turkey and Iran within the Astana format.
And my hope is that through these discussions, we will actually be able to unite on what we agree on. And there is actually on the Syrian file – there is quite a level of agreement, but it hasn’t materialised into action on the ground, as this is what I need to see.
I also said in my concluding remarks to the Council that I hope that next time when I am back, in my next briefing, that we will also then have, we can see a united Council and that we will have then a continuation of the cross-border operations – and of course also cross-line operations to be able to continue the humanitarian support to the Syrian people.
Question: You’ve spoken today, and you spoke last month about a new constructive international dialogue, could you perhaps expand on that? Is this going to be a new grouping of countries, a new mechanism? What do you have in mind?
Mr. Pedersen: As you know, I actually started mentioning the need for this in my first briefing to the Council after I took office. Since then, a lot of things have happened but of course now there has been an election in the United States, a new administration in place and that sort of restarted a little bit that discussion. I hope that after the round that I am going to have now, that it will be possible for me to give you a bit more details when I see you here hopefully in the not-too-distant future. But I think now the dialogue has just started and I think it would be unfair of me to give too much of details on how I would like to see that unfold.
Question: What made you think that this might be the right time to try and launch a new international dialogue? What’s changed? And is there any idea or any thinking that you have of when this might actually happen? Are we talking about weeks? Months?
Mr. Pedersen: I hope we are not talking about too many weeks, to put it like this, but as I just said let me a bit more precise about that after the round of consultations with the Foreign Ministers that I am now going to have. But I think there are a few very important developments and of course it is, what I call, the relative calm on the ground, that has now been going on for 15 months where you haven’t seen front lines changed in Syria – this I think is an extremely important development – but it is a very fragile calm, and we need to discuss how we can make sure that this does not break down.
Then as you know very well, there has been a very serious development when it comes to the economy, we have seen a collapse of the Syrian economy. This is also creating new challenges.
And I think we all see that these two developments, and then of course the issue of detainees that I mentioned, the issue of refugees and displaced persons that I mentioned in there, all of this I think should create a certain sense of urgency for the international community so that we don’t now miss the opportunity to move in the situation where there is relative calm and everyone is again emphasising that there is no military solution to this conflict.
Question: I know you are facing many problems like the humanitarian situation, like the refugees, but also today the Syrian ambassador talked about the Turkish occupation of the Syrian territories, he even mentioned that Turkey is appointing official administrators in these territories, do you think this is a problem facing your mission as Special Envoy? Or it is not a problem?
Mr. Pedersen: I am sure you listened very carefully to what I said inside, I said there are now five international armies operating in Syria, this is creating a lot of challenges, we need to address that. I also said that there are different parts of Syria controlled by different – I don’t even remember what term I used, but the reality is that we have at least three different parts and this is a situation that needs to be changed.
This can only change, in my opinion, if we sit down and have a serious discussion between the key international players with the UN facilitation, and this is what I am hoping to launch.
Question: Do you have the dates set for your travel to Moscow?
Mr. Pedersen: No, I just discussed it with my good friend the Russian ambassador and they are working on trying to find a date soon.
Question: Are you going to attend in person the Nur-Sultan meeting and what are your expectations from this event?
Mr. Pedersen: We are currently discussing my travel plans, and we will see when we have the actual dates for the meeting, how that will play into all the other meetings I am planning to have next 14 days actually, so we will see.