Intra-Syrian talks led to common ground – UN envoy

GENEVA, March 24 (KUNA) — UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Thursday the just ended first round of Intra-Syrian Talks has led to common ground for the next round to build on in April.
Addressing a press conference after the talks, De Mistura said: “The first point that I think has been leading our strategy on the Intra-Syrian Talks is: what are the Syrians asking us? — They have been asking us for a reduction of violence, you remember, so therefore the priority in mind to protect is the cessation of hostilities.” “And the second priority to protect – because they have been asking us and continue to ask us, they have even been demonstrating in favor of that – is humanitarian access: not enough, but that is what they have been asking for. “Cessation of hostilities: not perfect, but that’s what they have been asking for. So that is what we need to protect,” the UN envoy said. “But now comes the next concept in our own strategic approach. You can’t sustain a cessation of hostilities in a conflict like the Syrian one, five years of horror – and you can’t therefore sustain the humanitarian aid, which is linked to access thanks to the reduction of violence, unless there is a political process. And you can’t have a political process that is credible unless there is a vision, a horizon of a political transition, as per 2254. “That is the context in which we are working, and when you look at the Intra-Syrian talks – phase one, phase two, phase three – please, at least understand what is the roadmap that we have in mind in order to make it happen.
“At this stage the discussions are and were meant to actually keep the momentum, and at the same time prepare for the real talks about transition, political transition, political process. Diplomacy is done both in this building and outside, and that’s also how the cessation of hostilities took place. “You remember – most of you were with me in the evening in the middle of the rain, and I still apologize for that – I felt so embarrassed actually when I came out of the hotel and saw you in the rain – but if you think about it, the suspension of the talks on that occasion, which appeared to be quite dramatic, because normally the UN never suspends talks, you know, we are in favor of continuing talks, did produce a wakeup call, which was the Munich meeting. And the Munich meeting produced two elements: the cessation of hostilities and the humanitarian aspect. “There is diplomacy here, and diplomacy outside the two coincide. The two are supposed to support each other, and in theory they are supposed to produce also further improvement. “And perhaps not by coincidence, that the day when we started this round of talks the Russian Federation announced the reduction or the withdrawal of its own presence. And perhaps it is not by coincidence that while we are closing this round of talks today, there are expectations of important discussions in Moscow between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov, which we hope and want believe are going to be helpful to the next phase.
“Meanwhile, and now we get into the actual analysis of these talks, I must say, and I don’t know whether you felt the same, but I was quite impressed by the fact that both sides behaved very seriously. “You must have seen them when they came to be interviewed – very professionally, even I must say, those who we could have expected to be not well prepared because they are a new entity, like the HNC. “Particularly I must say, one or two of them when they spoke; today you saw Madam Basma with what focus and professional outlook, everyone too, but she in particular, responding in English, calmly, professionally, statesmanship. So we kept the momentum, waiting for the combination of the two political movements to coincide. “The support of this cessation of hostilities kept. I want to remind you that Sunday would be one month – my friends, one month (in Lebanon we had a ceasefire for 25 minutes), so there is something which has been moving. And no breakdowns, no walkouts and no de-legitimization or personal de-legitimization. “True, the government delegation was extremely focused on the issue about principles in order to be able then to talk about everything else. And on the side of the opposition a very serious list of papers as well, but much deeper already on the political process.
“So the conclusion was we better take this issue about the principles, which are important – we can’t avoid them because they are part of the future constitution, even part of the future discussions about political process – take them and put them quite aside. “If we keep them there all the time, the next round of talks will not be about political transition or political process. “Hence my decision to produce a paper myself: that’s a standard negotiating, facilitator, mediator technique. And the paper which will be shared with you digitally, both in English and Arabic, while we are talking, or which is already available to you by courtesy of Al-Jazeera, I understand, miraculously, but I am not against it, the UN is very transparent, as long as it is not too early because it’s stops us having buy-in by the various components, which did take place between yesterday and today. (more)