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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

De Mistura: Opposition needs to understand transition is not solely about Assad

Staffan de Mistura
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria
Remarks to meeting of the Security Council
21 September 2016
Mr. President,
The Secretary-General has spoken powerfully about this terrible conflict and of the need to open the road to political talks that focus on the fundamental issues for a viable transition. He has requested me to be ready to present to the parties a draft framework of proposals as a starting point for negotiations for a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political transition. And I am ready.

Let me offer a few observations in this regard.

Firstly, the United Nations has done its due diligence to understand the needs and fears of the sides, even if their starting positions cannot be satisfied.  Over the last two years it has engaged extensively with Syrian stakeholders, whether in the Geneva Consultations or in three rounds of formal proximity talks, technical discussions, shuttle diplomacy in the region, or through the ISSG and 18 Special Envoys. I have taken account of the inputs made in this engagement.

Secondly, it should be noted that remarkable points of convergence have emerged from intra-Syrian talks about what essential governing principles should frame transition and any end-state constitutional arrangement for Syria in the future. These commonalities demonstrate how close the sides visions are - of an open, civil, all-inclusive, non-sectarian, pluralist, democratic, unified state, based upon the rule of law, in which all components of Syrian society are recognized, respected and whose fundamental freedoms are enshrined and protected in a new constitution.

Third, in round three both sides accepted that the agenda was political transition. The Secretary-General referred to the Mediator’s Summary which captured further commonalities on transition and set out the issues that need to be addressed for a viable transition. As we know that Summary was subsequently endorsed by the ISSG as “the basis for the next round of the intra-Syrian negotiations,” which thereafter urged the parties “to reach agreement on a framework for a genuine political transition.” It was within this context that on 26 July the ISSG requested that I develop proposals.

Mr President
As soon as talks resume, it is my intention to put proposals to the sides as a starting point for negotiations and as a means by which to move to direct talks. The Secretary General takes the view that nothing short of presenting a draft framework will move the sides towards negotiating a transition.

Fourth, it follows that any proposals I present would proceed upon the basis that the conflict in Syria cannot be resolved military but only through a Syrian owned and led political negotiating process between the Government and the Opposition, in which a framework is agreed, based upon mutual consent, capable of effecting a genuine, irreversible political transition leading to a new constitution and free and fair elections, while preserving the continuity and reform of state institutions, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254.

Fifth, in our view any viable transition must inevitably:

(a) address how power is to be exercised in practice by transitional governance, including in relation to the presidency, executive powers and control over government and security institutions;

(b) involve power being shared, devolved and gradually exercised during transition in an agreed manner, in accordance with good governance principles, and subject to domestic and international guarantees;

(c) require the creation of collective transitional bodies to oversee a national ceasefire, humanitarian relief and the creation of a calm, neutral environment to enable free peaceful political activity to occur in relation the adoption of a constitution and the holding over free and fair elections;

(d)be accompanied by sustained international efforts to help reconstruct Syria as soon as genuine and verifiable transition gets underway.

The Opposition therefore needs to understand that transition is not solely about one person or the transfer of power from one political faction to another. While the Government needs to understand that transition involves a genuine devolution of power and not just the absorption of the Opposition into a government ruled by one man. It is about how power should be exercised differently as Syria moves forward.

Above all both sides need to recognise that any transition needs to be all-inclusive and agreed through mutual consent. I therefore appeal to all of you in this Council to reflect carefully on what the Secretary-General has said and the few points I have added, and to do all you can tohelp the Syrian parties to understand that if peace is to be made, if they are to save their country, if there is to be a transition, it will require a genuine readiness to negotiate and to compromise, and that this framework approach will be intended to provide them with that opportunity.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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