Mercoledì, 13 Novembre 2019
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Conferenza stampa dell'inviato ONU Staffan de Mistura sulla Siria

Staffan de Mistura

8 set - Hello everybody, good to see you, as you know for logistical reasons we are having it here, there is no other opportunity.

I would like to offer some comments because I was chairing today the HTF since Jan Egeland was not present, and then of course I will make some comments on the political forecast, analysis, ideas.

Regarding the HTF today, the main point which has come up and I must say has come up in a very clear way, has been the Deir ez-Zor issue.  Deir ez-Zor is on its way to be completely liberated from a siege of three years, and the discussion at the HTF was: now, how can we actually improve the humanitarian access to it?

As you know the World Food Programme of the United Nations, has been keeping 95,000 people alive via high altitude, quite complicated and risky air drops.  300 of them have taken place, 6,000 tons of aid since 10 April of 2016.  This was done thanks to unique operation through the UN, with many countries, I think it is a good time to actually remember that because sometimes we just take for granted the fact that the UN and many countries can work together in saving people.  The countries who were involved in this Deir ez-Zor air drop operation, high altitude were: the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, the Russian Federation, who even provided a crew, and quite a courageous crew for the airplane, Australia, Italy, Federal Republic of Germany and Jordan.  Now Deir ez-Zor is almost liberated, we hope this will become confirmed in the next few hours, and as soon as the road access will be clarified and cleared, I think that the people of Deir ez-Zor will be able to be reached via road, which means in a much cheaper and effective way.  The UN is currently discussing with SARC, which is very actively preparing for the first convoys, how we can plan to do that by road.

The convoy which have been waiting for going to Kefraya and Foua, has once again been prepared and I hope, this would be working.  Both to Kefraya and Foua, which as you know have been waiting for a long time and Yarmouk.  We are talking about 7000 people and 2000 people respectively. This had been postponed several times, I know it, and we have been very unhappy about it, but this is being prepared once again.  Same applies to the convoys to eastern Harasta, which have been postponed probably due to the logistical developments that had produced the liberation of Deir ez-Zor.  

Regarding Raqqa there have been discussions at the HTF regarding the concern, humanitarian concern, for 25,000 civilians which have been trapped inside the center of the city and are prevented by Daesh to actually leave it.  And the need to avoid civilian casualties, due to the air bombing which is linked to the liberation of Raqqa.  

There was also some discussion about the concerns on how to improve and increase the humanitarian assistance to the 263,000 IDPs which came from Raqqa, and are now based in 49 different locations.

Regarding Idlib, there are concerns and, they were discussed at the HTF, regarding the fact that al-Nusra has been increasing its own holding and influence inside Idlib, which makes it more dangerous and complicated for a proper humanitarian access.  I believe this may be discussed also in Astana because Idlib is a subject of Astana.

Now let’s look at the global political assessment regarding Syria.  First of all, chronology: the next rendez-vous or step is the Astana meeting.  This seems to be now definitely confirmed, as you know for next week, and I plan to be there with a UN delegation.  The expectation there, I leave it to those who are organizing it, but is to address the issue of Idlib, and we hope it will also touch the issue of humanitarian demining, and the detainees’, that is why I will bring a team of experts.  

Then we are all going to be at the General Assembly, when I say all, all countries and all Foreign Ministers and above.  And what I do know, I cannot go into much of the details, there are different countries who are planning various initiatives which may lead to an opportunity for discussing Syria and above all how to stabilize the political situation in Syria, and in order to accelerate the political process along 2254.  So the GA may become quite an opportunity for at least addressing this aspect. 

We are in the meantime intensifying political contacts and testing ideas in order to assist the attempt by the opposition to actually unify and be ready for the Riyadh 2 Conference, which is expected in October, and also to discuss with those countries who have an influence on how to facilitate that.  And then we do plan, and I confirm it, to actually move forward with the plan to have serious negotiations in October between the government and the opposition, hopefully by that time they would have recalibrated in a unified way and with a pragmatic approach.

You must have heard that I have been making recently some general comments on future steps. I think I can elaborate a little bit further here.  There are some facts, and then there are visions, that’s what a mediator is supposed to propose or work on.  And the facts are:  that Deir ez-Zor is almost liberated, in fact is, as far as we are concerned liberated, in a matter of few hours, and the next one is going to be Raqqa, in a matter of days, or few weeks.  Deir ez-Zor was surrounded, as you know, by Daesh and therefore there was no need of street by street fighting.  Raqqa is more complicated, but it is also likely nevertheless to be liberated very soon.

When that will take place that becomes the moment of truth. Why? Because many countries who got involved, who are involved in the Syrian conflict, based on their own intention, public intention, to fight Daesh.  Well, once Daesh is being almost militarily defeated then there is a very big question that they should be helped to ask themselves, do we want to have another Mosul? Do we want to give a chance to Daesh, in another form, in three months’ time, God forbid, and with a different name, to actually start again in Syria, like it was done in Iraq? Or do we want to actually really defeat Daesh and actually answer the question that the Syrian people have been asking, “we want peace finally, we want a political stability, we do not want violence”.

So the priority is, what we call the de-escalation, which Astana is doing and frankly once the de-escalation will be over, Astana’s useful role could be almost over, and therefore we may not be that far from that moment.  Look at how many areas have been now de-escalated, and I must say, quite successfully.  Second, we need then a national ceasefire, that’s what the Syrian people want. And then do we want to make it sustainable? The only answer is a political process. Now I know you heard the word “political process” many times, but the issue is: is the government after the liberation of Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, ready and prepared to genuinely negotiate and not simply announce victory, which we know, and they know too, cannot be announced, because it won’t be sustainable without a political process? Will the opposition be able to be unified and realistic enough and realize that they did not win the war? There is a need for a political negotiation based on 2254, perhaps in an accelerated way and perhaps also with some adjustments due to the pragmatic environment in which we are living.

If that moment of truth will be missed, the forecast then could be very bad.  We may have a new Daesh coming up, we may have a low intensity guerrilla, we may not have countries interested in reconstruction.  That’s not what we all want.  That’s why when I say that we are now at a moment of truth very soon and where we hope that those countries who can influence the government to say now is the time to negotiate, of course the militarily situation has been improving but it is time to negotiate.  And for the opposition, to do the same in a realistic, unified way, all this is going to be very soon after Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

The agenda is clear, I have been mentioning it and I can mention it again, and it is agreed, it is 2254.  The constitutional reform, some form of political power-sharing which can lead to credible, credible, UN–led, UN monitored elections.  So when people say “what will be the future of Syria?”, the answer is: “what the Syrians will decide”. But they will be deciding based on what 2254 has been indicating, not just simply by a diktat, by any foreign country, or anyone else.

So that’s the plan, it may change, spoilers may take place, as usual has been in the past, but if they do that, it means that we would have given them the time after Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor to actually do so, and that’s what I hope will not be the case.  It is the moment of truth.  I am ready to take questions of course.

Q.  The Commission of Inquiry just informed us that the Syrian government was behind the sarin gas attack in April, what is your comment on this and what kind of impact might this have on the upcoming intra-Syrian talks?

SdeM:  Well, I have no comment to make on that.  I just learnt what was said by our colleague, I leave it to him and to those institutions that exist in the UN, and there are now more than one, to follow up on that.

Q.  You say in October there will be serious negotiations...

SdeM: There must be serious negotiations, I didn’t say there will be serious negotiations, I said there must be serious negotiations, and we will be pushing for that if the government will become serious and want to negotiate because Russia and others will tell them now is time, and if the opposition will be told by those who support it: get your acts together, be ready to negotiate.

Q. Right, but in the new landscape we have, Deir ez-Zor is falling, Raqqa is falling, being liberated, what do you think realistically could be achieved in these negotiations that must take place?

SdeM: Well, I will not prejudge the outcome of the negotiations, because that is not what a mediator should be doing, but what I can tell you is what we plan to do, and we may come up with some concrete idea on how to adjust the 2254 agenda or road map into something more accelerated and perhaps a little bit more pragmatic but along those lines.

Q. (inaudible)

SdeM: Well I cannot tell you today, sorry, I mentioned constitutional reform, did I? Did I mention some sort of power sharing that would allow and permit everyone to feel that there is security and comfort in having elections along the lines of 2254 with a UN supervision, and that could lead and would be leading, I hope, to funds being available for reconstruction.  Because the alternative, otherwise, is very dangerous, that we will leave it in a limbo, with a non-reconstructed country and with a sort of no peace no war.

Q.  As you said that we do not need a new Mosul after the liberation, in this context how do you evaluate the agreement done between Hezbollah and ISIS near the Syrian border and the transfer of Daesh near the border of Iraq?

SdeM: By the way you do know I was in Iraq during the time, and after that in Afghanistan and we learned some lessons and I know that many of the countries and people who are leading those countries are very aware of those lessons, that in order to avoid a new Mosul, in other words a new Daesh, instead of Mr. Zarqawi at that time, we need a political solution which is  inclusive, and that means giving a chance for everyone to be part of it, otherwise, you will have unhappy people who may fall into the trap of bad messages.  Now regarding the specific case that you are talking about, it is a purely military aspect, and I would not comment on that, I think the bottom line is everyone should be stopping Daesh, wherever they can, because Daesh is the enemy of everyone.  But I will not elaborate on how to do it, by what type of means and where to do it.

Q.  One question and one clarification.  The question is about the October talks: do you see this happening after a national ceasefire and resolving the problem of Idlib, and ending with some agreement.? And to clarify: you said that the opposition has to realize that it did not win the war, does that mean that Assad did win the war?

SdeM: Let me start with the last point which I think is very fair.  History will judge of course and I am not the one to write the history of this conflict because the conflict is still ongoing.  But at the current moment I don’t think anyone can actually claim to have won the war.  The government has perhaps, and in fact certainly advanced militarily, particularly regarding territorial recovery, but the victory can only be if there is a sustainable political long term solution, otherwise instead of war, we may, God forbid, see plenty of low-intensity guerilla, going on for the next ten years and you will see no reconstruction, which is a very sad outcome of winning a war.

On the opposition, the message is very clear, if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that’s not the case, so that is the time to win peace by negotiating and by making concessions on both sides.

On local ceasefires, now we are seeing and I must say, that the Russian side has been working quite actively on that, and been delivering quite a lot on that, and the proof is that we were able to get the Douma convoys with local Russian military police, that de-escalation areas seem to be working, including whatever they want to call it but it is a similar area which the US and Jordan and Russia have been doing in the south.  So in other words, if you look at the map you will see that there are very few spots, there are, and they are not good, but there are very few spots left of what I could consider a highly militarized conflict.  So you are having Deir ez-Zor, and you see where we are, you are having Raqqa, you will see soon where we are.  So what is left is Idlib.  Idlib is complicated, I agree, it is complicated because there are 2 million people and because al-Nusra has been now taking over substantially what used to be little a bit more (inaudible) there.  I am confident, and we are pushing for that, and we are working also for that, that there will be a non-conflictual solution, let’s say, not a new Aleppo in Idlib, that’s what we want to avoid, at any cost, if we have learned from the past.  And to do so, I hope and believe that the next meetings in Astana will be helping.  Now if that takes place, Idlib may become frozen in a way, in order to avoid that it becomes a major tragic end of the conflict.  So by that time, we would be then having no major fighting, perhaps a frozen area with some negotiations, time for a credible political process. Otherwise we will miss that opportunity.

Q. Question : [Inaudible] vous êtes convaincu qu’on aura une seule délégation de l’opposition à Riyadh 2, et cela veut dire qu’on aura aussi des négociations directes entre le gouvernement, si on a une seule délégation de l’opposition ?

SdeM : J’ai appris, mon cher ami – on s’est vu pendant longtemps ! – à ne jamais être complètement sûr de ce qui peut être le futur dans le contexte syrien. C’est-à-dire, je ne peux pas vous dire : je suis sûr qu’il y aura une délégation unie. Mais je peux vous dire que le souhait, la pression et franchement la nécessité à ce point historique, et la pression de certains pays qui peuvent avoir de l’influence, est dans cette direction.

S’il n’y aura pas une vraie délégation unitaire et avec un certain réalisme, comme on a tous – on a tous un certain réalisme quand on regarde les résultats sur le terrain – il n’y aura pas de vraies négociations. Et ce n’est pas dans l’intérêt de l’opposition, parce qu’à ce point-là, le gouvernement pourrait dire : voilà, il n’y a pas une opposition et deux, on n’a rien à négocier.  Et ça serait tragique même pour le gouvernement, parce que le gouvernement a besoin de trouver une formule politique soutenable.

Q: You mentioned Deir ez-Zor will fall within hours, could you give us some insight into how you reached that conclusion?

SdeM: Well, I am not a military analyst, OK, but you see in the news, first of all there are two points, first Deir ez-Zor is not occupied by Daesh, but it is surrounded by Daesh, so that means that roads of access which Daesh have been controlling and that made it impossible for actually reaching Deir ez-Zor.  So, we saw yesterday, and we have evidence of that, we are waiting for additional information, that that has been starting to take place.  Now based on that and on the fact that there has been a lot of military concentration on what is left, the expectation that the city will not be any more surrounded and therefore besieged is imminent.  I cannot tell you more on that.

Thank you.

SDG Poster 2018 2


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