On the eve of scheduled intra-Syrian talks in Geneva to seek an end to five years of internecine fighting, the top United Nations official for the war-torn country took to the airwaves today to speak directly to the Syrian people, vowing that the world Organization will never abandon them.
“My message today is meant to reach every single man, woman, child of Syria, inside Syria and outside, in the refugee camps, or wherever you are,” Special UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said in a video recording.
“We count on you to raise your voice, to say khalas, it is enough, to say to everyone who is actually coming – from Syria and from abroad – to this conference that there are expectations on them to make sure that their vision, their capacity of compromise in discussion for reaching a peaceful solution in Syria is now, and they need to produce that,” he said.We’ve heard your voices, we heard when you have been telling us so many times wherever we met you, you Syrian people, you women, men and children of Syria, saying: Enough, ‘khalas, kefaya,’ enough killing, murdering, torturing, prisons.
“You have seen enough conferences, two of them already taken place. This one cannot fail. We’ve heard your voices, we heard when you have been telling us so many times wherever we met you, you Syrian people, you women, men and children of Syria, saying: Enough, ‘khalas, kefaya,’ enough killing, murdering, torturing, prisons.”
When he sent out the invitations to the talks on Tuesday, Mr. de Mistura said he was under no illusions about the difficulties in ending a war that has killed more than 250,000 people, sent over 4 million fleeing the country, displaced 6.5 million internally, and put 13.5 million people inside the country in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
The refrain has so often been “enough,” he said in his video message today, enough buildings destroyed, enough bombing of cities, enough being humiliated and becoming a refugee and drowning in the Mediterranean.
“All this we have heard. Now we need to hear your voice to everyone who is coming to this conference, and saying this conference must be an opportunity not to be missed,” he declared.
“We are going not to disappoint you from the UN point of view. You know we will never abandon the Syrian people, but we need now you to feel that this time is the right one, we will do all what we can,” he underscored.
Mr. de Mistura has said the Geneva meetings will start with proximity talks and are expected to last for six months, with Government and opposition delegations sitting in separate rooms and UN officials shuttling between them, with the immediate priorities being a broad ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and halting the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The talks stem from an agreement reached in Vienna in November by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), comprising the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries including the United States and Russia, as part of an effort to end the war with an agreement on new governance, a new constitution and new elections.
31 January 2016 – United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has met with the delegation of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) at their hotel in Geneva following their arrival last night in Geneva, where UN-mediated intra-Syrian talks began Friday after days of delays.
According to Mr. de Mistura's spokesperson, the envoy paid a courtesy visit to the HNC delegation and held a “short informal meeting [that was] useful in addressing issues relating to the intra-Syrian talks.”
Separately, the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, paid a courtesy visit to the hotel of the delegation of the Syrian Government to discuss practical arrangements related to the next steps in the talks, according to the spokesperson. The Government delegation, headed by the Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, held a preparatory meeting with Mr. de Mistura on Friday at the opening of the talks.
Speaking to reporters later that day, the Special Envoy said “the issue is obviously that any type of ceasefire discussions, which is obviously something that we are aiming at, apart from substantive discussions on the future of Syria, need two interlocutors […] that is why for us it is very important to have an indication of where we are on the presence of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC)” responding to questions about discussions among the opposition about attending the Geneva talks.
One of their key concerns he said, included the desire “to see a gesture from the Government authorities regarding some type of improvement for the people in Syria during the talks, for instance release of prisoners, or for instance some lifting of sieges.”