Transcript of Press Stakeout of United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen Following Security Council Briefing

29 Nov 2022

Transcript of Press Stakeout of United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen Following Security Council Briefing

I think my opening comments will be basically what I said to the Security Council, so just to highlight, of course, that I have spent most of the time on the situation on the ground, with the escalation we are seeing there, and as I said a few times during the briefing, we are afraid that we will see further escalation, and we asked all key actors to refrain from escalation, and to concentrate on the political process.

Then, of course, I emphasized the need for the Council to unite again on the new humanitarian resolution. Hopefully, I said that this could happen quickly. And then, I mentioned, of course, the work we are doing on the tragic file of the detainees, and the missing, and hoping that they can make some progress on that. And then, no surprise to all of you, the lack of progress on the Constitutional Committee, I emphasized that even if we should be able to meet in Geneva, as you know, there are still some issues there, or one issue rather, that is mentioned by Russia. I also said that we need to focus on the lack of substance, and we need improvement on that.

And last but not least I also mentioned that we hopefully will be able to make some progress on the step-for-step approach, and as you heard I received support from nearly a unanimous Security Council on my approach on this. I think I will stop here and then take some questions.

Question: Thank you very much Mr. Pedersen, so nice to see you here. Two questions, first you said that the Russian concern about holding the Constitutional Committee meeting in Geneva was resolved, but you said the Russians had raised another issue, but you gave no details about that issue. Can you give us any indication of what that issue is? And what the chances are of it being resolved before January, which is when you want to see the Committee meet. Secondly, a lot of members of the Council, yourself included, Martin Griffiths, raised the issue of renewing the cross-border of aid deliveries to northwest Syria, what’s your feeling about the Russian action, the possibilities of their renewing it and what would the implications be if they do not?

Mr. Pedersen: Thanks, good to see you again too, as always. Let me start with your last question, as I said to the Council, I really think it is doable to renew the resolution, and I hope it will be done in due time. I think there are several reasons for that. First, of course, the humanitarian needs are enormous, as both Martin and I mentioned in the briefing, we are now approaching 15 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, and I am not sure if I mentioned it this time, but as you know more than nine out of 10 people in Syria are now living in poverty, and there are many reasons for this. But if we do not renew the resolution I think we will stop the progress we have seen when it comes to early recovery, as you know we have seen an increase both in projects and in funding for that and, of course, it would have a serious impact on cross-border operations to the people in need of that, and it would I think then also really not be able to continue with proper cross-line operations. So I have appealed to the Syrian government, I have appealed to the Russians that it is time to move on on this, so I hope that will happen.

On the Constitutional Committee, ask our Russian friends themselves what is now the issue, what the new issue is. What I want to focus on is that it is now a question of political will from Russia to move on or not to move on and as I said to the Council, the longer it takes before we meet again the more problematic it will be. So, I really hope I will get some positive news on this.

Question: Just wondering how you see the war in Ukraine impacting negotiations on issues involving Syria in the Security Council.

 Mr. Pedersen: How it is impacting in the Security Council, let the Council answer themselves. But what I can tell you is that I see a direct impact, a negative impact on Syria. And my appeal to the key interlocutors is that this has to stop. For me I have seen it concretely when it comes to the Constitutional Committee. I hope we can protect it when it comes to the humanitarian issues, and I hope we will see then a positive confirmation on that maybe next month.

Question: Can you elaborate what is the negative impact of that?

Mr. Pedersen: As I mentioned, the issue of the venue has come up, which was not an issue before the war on Ukraine, and there are other issues too that I do not think I will go into details on.

Question: I have first a follow up question on your answer on the Constitutional Committee and I don’t think I really understood what exactly you heard from the Russians. And are you optimistic that you are going to resume the meetings soon? And my second question is on the issue of the missing. As you probably know there are discussions, and according to the recommendations of the SG, that there needs to be a body that takes care of this issue and probably there will be a resolution to be voted on in January or February, so are you discussing this issue with different parties about this body, and how important do you think that the General Assembly takes this issue as quickly as possible and form this body? Thank you.

Mr. Pedersen: I already welcomed the initiative from the Secretary-General on establishing a mechanism for the missing and I am obviously hoping that sometime during early spring that there will be a decision on this from the General Assembly. The issue of the missing is of course one of the deep, deep tragedies of the Syrian conflict. When it comes to the Constitutional Committee, my hope is that it should be possible to convene in January, but that depends on the will of Russia to move forward when it comes to the issue of the venue.  

Question: In Switzerland?

Mr. Pedersen: We should definitely meet in Geneva, yes indeed. 

Question: You were talking about the political will earlier of the Russians, honestly what’s your assessment on any kind of progress in the future with regards to the Constitutional Committee, you were just talking about, it seems there seems to be such a degree of (inaudible) on both sides, from Syria and Russia.

Mr. Pedersen: You know the Constitutional Committee was established with the support of the Russians, and the Iranians, with Turkiye, but also with others, so I have been sort of appealing to them, let’s go back to the original idea behind the Constitutional Committee, which was to bring representatives of the government, representatives of the opposition, and the civil society to come together and to discuss a new social contract for Syria and I think we have developed a very good terms of reference for how to move forward on that, so my appeal to the parties now is let’s go back to the basics and start implementing the terms of reference, and then we can make some real progress.

Thank you.