Statement on behalf of the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura (22 December 2017)

Special Envoy de Mistura attended today the Astana meeting, which was hosted very effectively by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and organised under the auspices of the three guarantors of the 30 December 2016 ceasefire – the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey.  The Special Envoy reiterated his belief that maintaining and enhancing the deescalation of violence remains an essential contribution to the shaping of an environment conducive to a political progress in Syria as per Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  Through his presence and activity in Astana, the Special Envoy reaffirmed his keenness in this regard.

Noting his concern over the lack of progress on urgent humanitarian issues despite the establishment of deescalation zones, with no access to besieged locations during the month of December, the Special Envoy called for unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country.  In particular, he emphasised it was urgent for the United Nations to be able to deliver immediate life-saving assistance to all besieged locations, as well as undertake urgent medical evacuations from Eastern Ghouta.  In his capacity as Special Envoy, and subject to endorsement by the United Nations headquarters, he also welcomes the fact that there has been some progress on important confidence-building measures, such as humanitarian demining.

On the issue of detainees, abductees, and missing persons, the Special Envoy has taken note of an agreement on a working group for the release of detainees and abductees and on the exchange of information on missing persons.  He considers this is commendable as a first step towards reaching a comprehensive arrangement between the conflicting parties.  The United Nations reiterates that real progress on the release of detainees, and the exchange of information about abductees and missing persons, consistent with resolution 2254 (2015), is crucial.  This should be achieved through establishing the standing working group discussed in details in previous Astana meetings.  The United Nations will continue to emphasise the need for meetings of this working group to happen on a systematic basis.

Further to his meetings in Moscow yesterday with Russian Defence Minister Shoigu and Foreign Minister Lavrov, Special Envoy de Mistura had further exchanges with guarantors in Astana on the initiative to convene a congress of national dialogue in Sochi, planned to take place in January 2018.  The United Nations maintains its view that any political initiative by international actors should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the mandated political process under the United Nations in Geneva and the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015).  The Special Envoy will be consulting the Secretary-General once he has received all the information required.

In the meantime, the Special Envoy recalls his intention to convene a ninth round of intra-Syrian talks under the auspices of the United Nations in January, which he announced to the Security Council in his briefing of 19 December and discussed in Washington DC and Moscow earlier this week.  The focus of this round will continue to be the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), with a specific focus on the constitutional and electoral baskets of the agenda while continuing to explore other baskets.  He is looking forward to making substantive progress with the Syrian delegations in this context, as the round will be an important opportunity to assess the readiness and ability of the parties with the support of the international community to advance a political solution to the Syrian crisis under the aegis of the United Nations in Geneva, as called for by resolution 2254 (2015).

Geneva, 22 December 2017