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Transcript of the press conference by the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi (Geneva, 25 November 2013)
25 November 2013

Transcript of press conference
by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi
Geneva, 25 November 2013

JSRS: Good afternoon everyone. Again, sorry for being late. We’ve just finished the meeting of our trilateral group. As you know, we have agreed on the date for the conference. It will be the 22nd of January here in Geneva. We are still discussing the complete list of participants, and we will be meeting again on the 20th of December for another trilateral, maybe the last one before the conference. We are in touch both with the Government and with the opposition. We are asking them to name their delegations as early as possible, hopefully before the end of the year, because I think it’s important that we meet them and speak to them, and listen to them, because this conference is really for the Syrians to come to Geneva, to talk to one another, and hopefully start a credible, workable, effective peace process for their country.

I think we had a good meeting. The Secretary-General, I think, has spoken to the press, or he is going speak to the press, I don’t know. He has done so already? So, he has probably answered all the questions you want to ask me, and you don’t need to ask me. Alright, a couple of questions.

Q: Could you tell me exactly whether the Iranians and Saudi Arabia will be coming to the January 22nd peace conference?

JSRS: You know, we haven’t established a list yet. These two countries will certainly be among the possible participants.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Up until now, you are not sure of all the delegations, how then have you been able to agree on a date for this conference, even though the delegations are still not assured?

JSRS: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] We have had two issues that we have been dealing with during this period, the date and the list of invitees. We have agreed on the date, and we are still talking and negotiating about the list of invitees. There is nothing strange about that.

Q: After this meeting - I ‘m talking again about Iran - do you see closer its participation, and if not, which is the main obstacle for that?

JSRS: I don’t think I can comment about that. We have said several times that the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Secretary-General of the Arab League are in favour of inviting Iran.

Q: The Geneva Communiqué states there must be a ceasefire. Can you tell us what plans you have for a ceasefire? Would that have to happen before 22 January, or on January 22 or at some date afterwards?

JSRS: I’m not sure whether that is what the Geneva Communiqué says but certainly we strongly appeal to the parties that since they are coming to this conference, this is, as the Secretary-General said today, it is a huge opportunity for peace that should not be wasted. This being so, we very strongly appeal to the Syrian government and the opposition not to wait for the conference, to do some confidence-building measures, diminish the violence, release prisoners and detainees of all sorts. You know, these two bishops that have been kidnapped, why are there still kept? As far as I know, they are not even asking for anything to release them. So I hope that, we appeal to them. But being realistic, a lot of the things that need to happen will happen after the conference starts, not before the conference starts.

Q: The British Foreign Secretary has said that the opposition would be represented by the Syrian National Coalition. Could you confirm that or not?

JSRS: What I confirm is that the National Coalition will play a very important role in forming the delegation but I have always said that the delegation has to be credible and representative, as representative as possible. Not all the people who want to come to Geneva will be able to come but they should know that this is not an event, this is a process. And in this process, I am sure that everybody who wants to participate in rebuilding what I call the new republic of Syria will be able to do so in the course of the process.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Did you talk about the transitional government and what its powers will be, and what will the role of the security apparatus and the Syrian army under this government?

JSRS: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] We have said that the conference will start without any preconditions and also that all issues will be on the table once the conference opens. There is no doubt that the formation of the transitional ruling authority is one of the most important issues that has to be agreed upon in the conference. The transitional ruling authority is agreed upon in the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June last year: that it will have complete powers and that these powers will be determined by the parties when we meet, God willing.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] If we understand correctly, Geneva II is building on Geneva I…

JSRS : [Unofficial translation from Arabic] Geneva II must implement Geneva I

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] …Without doubt you will face a difficult task because even with Geneva I, everyone decided to understand it their own way.

JSRS : [Unofficial translation from Arabic] That is natural.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] My question is, have you determined the time framework for the start of the negotiations, that they start for instance on the 22nd, or will it be as some believe an open-ended negotiation path?

JSRS : [Unofficial translation from Arabic] It will start on the 22nd for sure, this has been settled.

Q: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] How many days will it take?

JSRS: [Unofficial translation from Arabic] I will ask you when we start, God willing.

Thank you very much.