Transcript of Press Stakeout by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen, Following Conclusion of Constitutional Committee’s Sixth Session

United Nations Special Envoy Addresses the Media

Geir O. Pedersen, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria briefs the press after the closing of the Sixsth round of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, Geneva. 22 October 2021 . UN Photo / Violaine Martin

22 Oct 2021

Transcript of Press Stakeout by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen, Following Conclusion of Constitutional Committee’s Sixth Session

Very good to see you and a good Friday afternoon. I hope your week has not been as hectic as mine has been. But anyway, good to see you.

Let me do the following, let me sort of guide you through a little bit how the week developed, and then how we concluded today. Some of it you may know, but I think just to be fair.

So, let me start with what we had agreed in advance with the two Co-Chairs, just sort of to summarise so that you will understand where I end up. And as you know we had agreed before they arrived that they should produce four titles, that would be submitted to us and all delegations did that, the delegation nominated by the Syrian government, the delegation nominated by the SNC and of course the Civil Society or the Middle Third, as we call them.

And then as you know I told you the last time we met here on Sunday, that we started meetings with the Co-Chairs, as we had agreed, and indeed throughout the week the two Co-Chairs have met with me and my Deputy, Khawla Matar, we have done that sometimes several times during the day, and we had rather business-like, frank and open discussions to try to help to move the process forward.

And then as you know we had a discussion on which titles we should develop into draft constitutional texts, and then who should present that constitutional text into the meeting. And the two Co-Chairs then agreed on the following principles, not the principle, but mechanism, that on the first day, on Monday, we would be discussing the following principle: “Sovereignty, Independence and Territorial Integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic” and that that principle would be presented by the delegation nominated by the government. 

Then on Tuesday it was agreed that the opposition, the SNC, would present a draft constitutional text on “The Army, Armed Forces, Security and the Intelligence”.

And then on the third day it was agreed that a draft constitutional text would be presented on “Rule of Law” and that that would be done by the Middle Third delegation.

And then on the fourth day it was agreed that a draft constitutional text on “Terrorism and Extremism” would be presented by the delegation nominated by the government.

I think that it is fair to say that it was, I was going to say as always, but perhaps not as always, but there were ups and downs through those four days, I think we had three days, I would say that went rather well, and one day that was more difficult. But in the end, good discussions on the different principles that were presented.

Then, as you may recall we had agreed that today we would concentrate on bringing forward the principles that were discussed, and see if we could reach what I would call some kind of provisional agreement, or at least, maybe on part of it, or a whole principle or if not agreeing on what we disagree on. 

I think it is fair to say that the discussion today was a big disappointment. We did not manage to achieve what we had hoped to achieve, that we would have a good discussion on how to reach forward for some kind of a consensus.

I think we lacked a proper understanding on how to move that process forward, so in the end it was, the government delegation decided not to present any new text, the opposition decided that it would respond to the two texts that were presented by the government and indeed by the Civil Society group. And based on that we had a round, but that round did not produce any understanding on commonalities. And I said to the 45 (members) that I thought this was a disappointment and I had then afterwards a serious round of discussion with the two Co-Chairs and we agreed that it could not continue like this. And that we needed to develop a proper understanding on how we can move this into a proper substantial drafting process. And of course, as in all processes, this would require that we build on the little bit of trust that we have managed to establish through this week, and that we need a political will to find the right way of dealing with this process so that we can start to minimise differences and identify areas of commonalities.

Maybe just emphasise that my understanding is that the two Co-Chairs will come and see you after this, and obviously they will give their own version of what has happened today and throughout the week.

Question: Many thanks for your summary.  Could you go into a little bit of detail about the discussion, I have a question about the sovereignty of the state, can you tell us what was the position of both sides, the delegation of the government and delegation of opposition regarding the multinational and ethnic nature of Syria, do they agree about that or that Syrian Republic is a Syrian Arab Republic.

Mr. Pedersen: That is a very good question, but I think since you are seeing the two Co-Chairs why you don’t ask them directly instead of me giving an interpretation of what they told me.  I have my own views on this, I may tell you later.

Question: A little bit similar question but I see you don’t want to go into huge detail, any of the principles put forward had agreement or partial agreement on?

Mr. Pedersen: I think it will depend on who you ask of the 45 members of the committee. But in the end, we will need an understanding between all three delegations, that we reach a consensus and that we did not reach. So, when I look at it, I can see that here there are possibilities but as long as the parties themselves have not concluded that there are commonalities, I am not the one to conclude on their behalf.

Question: Have you at least agreed on the date of the next round?

Mr. Pedersen: No, we have not agreed on a date for the next round.