Friday, March 4th at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the Ambassador Staffan de Mistura take stock of the situation.
He begins by saying: Yesterday four people were killed in Syria. Previously the figure was 60 to 70 daily. He added: I am religious and every morning I pray for those who die in Syria.
It all started with the “Arab Spring”. The reaction was brutal and militarization on both sides followed with the support of foreign powers.
History will be our judge one day : in five years of conflict, 300 to 500 000 people were killed, 4 million became refugees, 1 million displaced persons within their own country. And this conflict has severely affected not only Syria but also neighboring countries and also Europe.
Two conferences in Geneva produces nothing other than a lack of dialogue observation. The Syrian conflict was happening in a vacuum of interest and hope, much like Somalia after the Black Hawk Down. Somalia has been forgotten for years and Syria was running the same risk. It was necessary, even if there was no prospect of a political settlement,to keep Syria in the agenda.
Staffan de Mistura has decided to focus on the city of Aleppo, the second city of Syria after Damascus, symbolic city for its history and its multiculturalism.
The trigger was probably the strong speech of Secretary-General of the United Nations in Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2015. It said he’s shame to see unfold the greatest humanitarian tragedy since the second world war. This speech brought the Geneva consultations, which were not very far because the two sides still hoped to win militarily. But these 132 meetings at the Palais des Nations allowed the Syrians to be heard: especially women of Syria …
Three factors have been game changers and allowed to move from idealistic Idealpolitik to Realpolitik
- Refugees first, who left their country in droves, seeing no future after five years of war, and that affected the neighboring and European countries, up to mobilize prime ministers and to game European unity;
- Russian military which has been a game changer) and a wake-up call;
- Daesh that, becoming increasingly aggressive in gaining ground, attacking a Russian aircraft in Sinai, causing terrorist attacks in Australia, Canada, Istanbul, San Bernardino and Paris, showed the need to respond.
Vienna meetings of 30 October and 14 November 2015 ( “Declaration of the International Support Group for Syria”) allowed the establishment of a contact group and conducted conversations Geneva. It took the call and hang them, to show the parties that it was not procedural meetings to exchange hot air meetings. The suspension had allowed to embark on two key issues: humanitarian aid and the cessation of hostilities. Two task forces were created, one in charge of humanitarian issues and the other in charge of the cease-fire. And two resolutions adopted unanimously by the Security Council Resolution 2254 and Resolution 2268.
The 2254 Resolution of December 18, 2015 fixed the negotiations
- An inclusive government, credible and non-partisan
- A new constitution
- Parliamentary and presidential elections.
The 2268 resolution of 26 February 2016 required the cessation of hostilities from midnight (Damascus) February 27th 2016. It welcomes the efforts of the US and Russia to reach agreement on this cessation of hostilities must be a step toward a sustainable cease-fire, reaffirming the close relationship between the cease-fire and a parallel political process.
Staffan de Mistura stressed that, in 2016, 224 truckloads of humanitarian aid have reach 200 000 people. The cessation of hostilities is fragile but it exists. We must protect it and it is essentially the responsibility of the two Great Powers.
The date for the resumption of talks is set to 9 March at nine. But time can be flexible. Some delegations arrive in the coming days. The Car Lounge mobilizes all hotel rooms in Geneva until 13 March. It will therefore perhaps wait until 14.
In response to questions, Staffan de Mistura emphasized
- More than the cessation of hostilities lasts, the more the United Nations and humanitarian will be able to provide help … February 4th in London, many promises were made; it is now necessary that these pledges are fulfilled and donors realize that it is cheaper to help the Syrians in Syria than to welcome them as refugees in Europe. Once Daesh defeated, it would be possible to have a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Syria
- He has a lot of admiration and respect for the ICRC and its President Peter Maurer, for their flexibility, discreet and outstanding work
- For the prosecution of war crimes will require thinking in time without jeopardizing the negotiations;
- To monitor the cease-fire, it essentially relies on the Russian Federation and the United States and on the Syrians. It was only later that a real operation of peacekeeping may be considered …
Deputy Permanent Observer
Mission of the Sovereign Military Ordre of Malta to the United Nation Office at Geneva