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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Munich ISSG statement on Syria

Statement of the International Syria Support Group

Meeting in Munich on February 11 & 12, 2016, as the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Arab League, China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States decided that humanitarian access will commence this week to besieged areas, and an ISSG task force will within one week elaborate modalities for a nationwide cessation of hostilities.

The ISSG members unanimously committed to immediately facilitate the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously December 18, 2015. The ISSG reaffirmed their readiness to carry out all commitments set forth in the resolution, including to: ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva Communiqué in its entirety; press for the end of any indiscriminate use of weapons; support and accelerate the agreement and implementation of a nationwide ceasefire; facilitate immediate humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas and the release of any arbitrarily detained persons; and fight terrorism.

Ensuring Humanitarian Access

In order to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, sustained delivery of assistance shall begin this week by air to Deir Ez Zour and simultaneously to Fouah, Kafrayah, the besieged areas of Rural Damascus, Madaya, Mouadhimiyeh, and Kafr Batna by land, and continue as long as humanitarian needs persist. Humanitarian access to these most urgent areas will be a first step toward full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country. 

The members of the ISSG will use their influence with all parties on the ground to work together, in coordination with the United Nations, to ensure that all parties allow immediate and sustained humanitarian access to reach all people in need, throughout Syria, particularly in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, as called for in UNSCR 2254. To this end, the UN will submit a plan to an ISSG humanitarian task force, which shall convene on February 12 and next week. This group will comprise the ISSG co-chairs, relevant UN entities and members of the ISSG with influence on the parties in a position to ensure humanitarian access.

The ISSG reaffirmed that humanitarian access should not benefit any particular group over any other, but shall be granted by all sides to all people in need, in full compliance with UNSCR 2254 and international humanitarian law. The ISSG asks the UN to report weekly, on behalf of the task force, on progress on the implementation of the plan referenced above, so that in any cases where access lags or approvals are lacking, relevant ISSG members will use their influence to press the requested party/parties to provide that approval. There will be a process for resolving any problems so that relief can flow expeditiously. Any questions about access or delivery will be resolved through the task force.

All ISSG members commit to immediately work together with the Syrian parties to ensure no delay in the granting of approval and completion of all pending UN requests for access in accordance with UNSCR 2254, paragraph 12. 
ISSG co-chairs and members will ensure that aid convoys are used solely for humanitarian purposes. International humanitarian organizations, in particular the United Nations, will play the central role, as they engage the Syrian government, the opposition and local populations, in arranging the monitoring and sustained and uninterrupted distribution of aid.

Achieving a Nationwide Cessation of Hostilities 

The ISSG members agreed that a nationwide cessation of hostilities must be urgently implemented, and should apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council. The ISSG members commit to exercise influence for an immediate and significant reduction in violence leading to the nationwide cessation of hostilities.

The ISSG members decided to take immediate steps to secure the full support of all parties to the conflict for a cessation of hostilities, and in furtherance of that have established an ISSG ceasefire task force, under the auspices of the UN, co-chaired by Russia and the United States, and including political and military officials, with the participation of ISSG members with influence on the armed opposition groups or forces fighting in support of the Syrian government. The UN shall serve as the secretariat of the ceasefire task force. 

The cessation of hostilities will commence in one week, after confirmation by the Syrian government and opposition, following appropriate consultations in Syria.  During that week, the ISSG task force will develop modalities for the cessation of hostilities. 

The ISSG task force will, among other responsibilities continue to: a) delineate the territory held by Daesh, ANF and other groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council; b) ensure effective communications among all parties to promote compliance and rapidly de-escalate tensions; c) resolve allegations of non-compliance; and d) refer persistent non-compliant behavior by any of the parties to ISSG Ministers, or those designatied by the Ministers, to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements for the cessation of hostilities and the protection it affords them. 
Although a cessation of hostilities can facilitate humanitarian access, it cannot be a precondition for such access anywhere in Syria. 
The ISSG decided that all members will undertake their best efforts, in good faith, to sustain the cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance, and take measures to stop any activities prohibited by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, 2199, 2249, 2253, and 2254. The ISSG again expressed concern for the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons and the imperative of building conditions for their safe return in accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law and taking into account the interests of host countries.

Advancing a Political Transition

The members of the ISSG reaffirmed the imperative of all sides engaging in negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations as soon as possible, in strict compliance with United Nations Security Council 2254. They reaffirmed that it is for the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria. The members of the ISSG pledge to do all they can to facilitate rapid progress in these negotiations, including the reaching of agreement within six months on a political transition plan that establishes credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance and sets a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution, free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under supervision of the United Nations, to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. 

Full implementation of these objectives will require the ISSG co-chairs and members, the UN and others, to work closely on political, humanitarian, and military dimensions.   

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Security Council Statement on North Korea: More Sanctions

Security Council Press Statement on DPRK long-range launch

The members of the Security Council held urgent consultations to address the serious situation arising from the launch using ballistic missile technology conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on February 7, 2016.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this launch.  The members of the Security Council underscored that this launch, as well as any other DPRK launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, contributes to the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapon delivery systems and is a serious violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), and 2094 (2013). They reaffirmed that a clear threat to international peace and security continue6 to exist, especially in the context of the nuclear test.

The members of the Security Council restated their intent to develop significant measures in a new Security Council resolution in response to the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on January 6, 2016, in grave violation of the DPRK's international obligations.

The members of the Security Council also recalled that they have previously expressed their determination to take “further significant measures” in the event of another DPRK launch.  In line with this commitment and the gravity of this most recent violation, the members of the Security Council will adopt expeditiously a new Security Council resolution with such measures in response to these dangerous and serious violations.

The members of the Security Council expressed their commitment to continue working toward a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation leading to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Demistura's Confidential Paper: Presidential Elections' Not Doable by Jan 2018 in Syria

Mr. Demistura during a press conference in New York. December 2015 (UN Photo)

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Security Council calls on Syrian parties to allow immediate humanitarian access


The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Sayeda Zeinab in the southern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, on 31 January 2016, for which ISIL (also known as Da’esh) claimed responsibility, during which more than 60 people were killed and more than one hundred injured. They expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the people of the Syrian Arab Republic. They also wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed grave concern that ISIL, including foreign terrorist fighters who have joined the group in Syria, groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL, Al Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with ISIL or Al-Qaida continue operating in Syria, and condemned the negative impact of their presence, violent extremist ideology and actions on the stability of Syria, neighbouring countries and the region, with a devastating humanitarian impact on the civilian populations. They stressed that all Member States shall fully comply with their obligations under resolution 2178 (2014).

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization.

The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice and stressed that those responsible for these terrorist attacks should be held accountable.

The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed. They reaffirmed the need for all States to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

The members of the Security Council stressed the need to take measures to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, terrorist organizations and individual terrorists in accordance with resolutions 2199 (2015) and 2253 (2015).

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Syria.

The members of the Security Council expressed their full support for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura, including his initiative to start negotiations between the parties pursuant to the Geneva Communiqué, 30 October and 14 November 2015 ISSG Statements and Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), and they called upon the parties to engage constructively in this process.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their grave distress by the continued deterioration of the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria and reiterated their call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Demistura's message to Syrian people: An opportunity not to be missed

Al Salam aleekom

My message today is meant to reach every single man, woman, child of Syria, inside Syria and outside, in the refugee camps or where ever you are.

You know in the next few days we are planning to launch what we call the Intra-Syrian talks, negotiations, in order to have progress in the context of reaching, finally, stability and peace and dignity back in Syria.

You deserve it.

Five years of this conflict have been too much.

The horror is in front of everyone’s eyes.

You must know also that 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.

You have seen enough conferences, two of them already taken place.

This one cannot fail.

We’ve heard your voices, we heard when you 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.

Enough buildings being destroyed,

Enough bombing my city where I am, and I do not who is bombing me, I just see bombs coming down, rockets, anything,

enough my brother, my sister being humiliated and becoming a refugee and trying to take a boat and drowning in the Mediterranean when I love my country.

Enough when you see your children say I want to go to school and I cannot go to school because you are not allowing me to go because it is too dangerous.

All this we have heard it, 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.

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.

God willing,
Al sallam alleekom.

السلام عليكم،
إلى كل رجل
الى كل امرأة
الى كل طفل وطفله من سوريا، سواء كانوا بداخل سوريا أو خارجها، في مخيمات اللاجئين أو في أي مكان كان
ستنعقد خلال الأيام القليلة القادمة ما نسميه بالمحادثات السورية اوالمفاوضات، من أجل أن نحرز تقدم في سبيل اعادة الاستقرار والسلام والكرامة مرة أخرى الى سوريا.
فأنتم تستحقون هذا.
خمس سنوات من هذا الصراع الطويل
حيث الرعب أمام أعين الجميع
فلتعلموا أيضا أننا نعول عليكم لرفع صوتكم لتقولوا "خلاص"، "كفاية " لتقولوا لجميع من سيأتي لحضور هذا المؤتمر سواء من داخل او خارج سوريا أن هناك توقعات منهم، وعليهم التأكد من رؤيتهم لهذه المحادثات .
كما نحن بحاجة الأن لقدراتهم للوصول لحلول وسط في المناقشة للتوصل إلى حل سلمي في سوريا.
فلقد رأيتم الكثير من المؤتمرات، اثنان منهم بالفعل. ولا يمكن لهذا المؤتمر أن يفشل.
سمعنا أصواتكم، سمعنا عندما كنتم تقولون لنا مرات عديدة كلما التقينا بكم، شعب سوريا، نساء ورجال وأطفال، تقولون كفا، خلاص، كفاية، كفا قتل وتعذيب، وسجون.
كفا تدميرا للمباني، كفا قصفا للمدن، وأنا لا اعرف من الذي يقصف، أرى فقط القنابل، والصواريخ،
كفا تعرض أخي وأختي للإذلال وتحولهم للاجئين وأخذهم في القوارب والغرق في البحر المتوسط ،
وأنا​​ أحب بلدي.
كفا عدم قدرة الاطفال للذهاب الى المدرسة وهم يريدون الذهاب الى المدرسة ويمنعوا لخطورة ذلك
سمعنا كل هذا، ونحن الآن بحاجة إلى إسماع صوتكم إلى كل من يحضر هذا المؤتمر، نقول: هذا المؤتمر فرصة لا ينبغي تفويتها.
نحن لن نخيب آمالكم فينا، ولن تتخلى الأمم المتحدة أبدا عن الشعب السوري ولكننا الآن بحاجة أن تشعروا أن هذا هو الوقت المناسب وسوف نبذل كل ما في وسعنا من اجل الشعب السوري.
إن شاء الله،
السلام عليكم

Thursday, January 21, 2016

De Mistura to Security Council on Opposition's Delegation: I Can No Longer Rely on Ambiguity of 2254


Pursuant to Resolution 2254 (2015)
18 JANUARY 2016

Mr. President, Members of the Security Council, 
1.  One month ago resolution 2254 gave the Secretary-General and his Envoy, clear tasks –to facilitate a political process; convene representatives of the Government and opposition in formal negotiations on a political transition process; determine the modalities and requirements of a ceasefire in consultation with relevant parties; and, report in 30 days on ceasefire modalities and options for further confidence-building measures. I, therefore, wish to present the requested reporting today and update on you on my activities.

2. Resolution 2254 also calls for many other important things that matter to the Syrians: unimpeded humanitarian access; immediate end to attacks against civilians and use of indiscriminate weapons; the observance of IHL; building conditions for safe and voluntary return of refugees and the displaced; and continued action  by Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts. Pointedly, 2254 designates the ISSG as the central platform to facilitate UN efforts. 

Mr. President, 

 3.  I have in the past three weeks visited Riyadh, where I met with the High Negotiations Commission, Ankara, Damascus for consultations with the Syrian government, and Tehran.  I further met with US Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and separately with the P5 at Political Director Level in Geneva last week.  I met again the General Coordinator of the HNC in Brussels. And I have held plenty more conversations by phone with Syrians, civil society, other ISSG members, as well as esteemed UN colleagues.

4. I have in parallel led the preparations of my office on several aspects of the forthcoming talks. Throughout I have kept in mind that, while the Secretary-General and I have clear tasks, so do the parties; the ISSG; the international community; so does this Council. The Secretary-General and I have no chance in succeeding, or even making a dent, if others do not do their part too. Let us be clear about that. 

Mr. President,
5. Let us therefore start with the reality on the ground – more powerful than any resolution or a conference.  The past month is a gruesome reminder of who bears the brunt of this ruthless, merciless, appalling conflict: the Syrian people, no matter who they support, and from almost every part of that devastated country. 

6. Only last week  Under Secretary-General O'Brien and ASG Kang briefed you separately on besieged areas and the aid convoys that reached three such villages: Madaya, Fouah and Kefraya. The UN has been able to reach less than 4% of all (14) besieged areas. Of the 113 requests made to the Government for access during 2015, 80 went unanswered.  As USG O’Brien noted, sieges are imposed by the Government, armed opposition groups and ISIL. And though the burden of responsibility falls onto the besieging party, let us not forget the responsibility of those who put civilians in danger by using them as human shields. An estimated 200,000 people, mainly women and children, are facing sharply deteriorating conditions in the western side of Deir-Ez-Zor city, besieged by ISIL since 2015.

7. And so I reiterate my request of last week to the P5 to exert pressure on the parties to deliver on unimpeded and sustained access starting initially with four besieged areas (Madaya, Mouadamiya, Foua, Kefraya).  Humanitarian access to some of these areas, while slightly improved in the last week, has been sporadic and difficult.  USG O’Brien was clear however: the move must not be "either one-off or exceptional."  These would essentially be the first steps towards alleviating the humanitarian situation in line with existing resolutions and obligations under IHL. I count on this Council and the ISSG to ensure this.

8. These are neither CBMs, nor are they preconditions. They are crucial signals to the people of Syria that this time around “peace talks” will make a difference to their lives. For the purposes of our process a CBM will be an action by one side in the direction of the other. Whereas, what I am now asking for is acts of good will which demonstrate seriousness about this process.  The success of Syrian and non-Syrian actors in meeting this minimum, but significant step, will be a small indication as to whether the talks stand a chance to be meaningful for those who suffer on the ground– not just another gathering in Geneva.

Mr. President, 

9. The Security Council has requested the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of the Special Envoy, to convene representatives of the Syrian government and opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis, pursuant to the Geneva Communique and consistent with the Vienna Statements of the ISSG, and in such manner that provides the broadest spectrum of Syrian stakeholders as required by the resolution 2254.

10. Despite the will of the ISSG, the Vienna process, and 2254, the truth is that the parties remain locked in fixed positions and a “zero-sum” game.  Parties disagree not only on substance, but  also question the UN discretion in “finalising” the opposition list.  The HNC and sponsors insist on the primacy and exclusivity of their role as “THE” opposition delegation. Other Syrians, who did not attend or were not invited to the Riyadh meeting in December, speak to their right to be invited simultaneously and on equal footing, and are supported by some ISSG members in this. 

11. I can no longer rely on the ambiguity of resolution 2254 in this respect.  The resolution refers to the particular usefulness of the Riyadh meeting. Indeed after five years of a divided and quarrelling opposition, the HNC’s establishment is a notable achievement.

12. There is  no doubt about the HNC’s centrality and the weight they carry in any intra-Syrian negotiations.  Yet, the resolution makes it clear that the only sustainable solution is through an “inclusive” Syrian-led political process. This implies multi-party involvement, with Syrians with a stake in the determination in the future of their country and end state arrangements beyond those who have a primary say on how to end the war. I would expect all sides to recognise my mandated responsibility to finalise a list of invitees to the process, to include all those I deem appropriate to implement 2254 in its entirety; that does not suggest I expect that people will accept the legitimacy of all participants nor that they will be expected to seat in the same room, thus the concept of proximity talks. 

Mr. President, Members of the Council,

13. Since last month I have made numerous attempts to address this issue with the parties and ISSG members and reach a workable and equitable accommodation.  I am ready to exercise my discretion on this matter.  I have nonetheless concluded that at this stage I cannot proceed further with issuing invitations unless the countries spearheading the ISSG process can come to an understanding first.  After two Geneva conferences failed to end the war and with the death toll nearing 300,000 the Syrian people need a clear signal that this time we all mean business: not simply having talks about talks for the sake of keeping the momentum, or entering into talks which will risk collapsing within a day or two.

14. In the course of my consultations I have also urged the government and HCN to include significant participation by women in their delegations in light of SCR 1325 and 2254 obligations and have also prepared options, in consultation with Syrian women and members states, in case they do not.  I am committed to ensuring their meaningful participation.

Mr. President,

15. Let us also be clear that the Security Council has established the agenda for this process, namely to establish credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance and a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution within a target of six months and free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under UN supervision in accordance with the highest international standards. 

16. 2254 makes clear that such an agenda shall be framed by reference to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; the sovereignty, independency, unity and territorial integrity of Syria; the continuity of government institutions; and the principle of non-sectarianism and respect for the rights of all Syrians regardless of ethnicity or religion.

17. The resolution acknowledges the role of the ISSG to help bring an end to the conflict in Syria as well build a parallel process to support and assist the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire.  A close linkage will need to be realised between those efforts and the UN facilitated political process, which the ISSG has the central role to facilitate. 

18. 2254 also affirms the urgent importance of all parties taking CBMs. To this end, I intend to enter into consultations with the parties and the ISSG not only about ceasefire modalities but also applicable CBMs, perhaps with particular emphasis on the latter in the early stages of the talks.  I would also further consult on appropriate measures as to how help member states combat terrorism pursuant to resolutions 2249 and 2253.  And I would look to address these pressing issues through consultations held alongside the formal negotiations on a political transitional process, also involving others, as may be required.

Mr. President, Members of the Council,

19. As per your request, I have been looking at options for monitoring, verification and reporting in the event a ceasefire – the terms and conditions of which are still unclear and to be developed within consultations –is agreed between the parties. I am also aware that what we might see is unilaterally offered, or quickly agreed cessation of hostilities, before such a ceasefire is in place.

20. The environment will likely remain highly fragmented, volatile and militarized. Fighting against Daesh and other terrorist organisations will also continue. In such a situation it would be extremely challenging to deploy any international monitors to conduct observation tasks on the ground. The conduct of verification would also be almost impossible in such a context. 

21. As such, the Secretary-General sees the need for a high level of agility and flexibility in any approach supported by the Council in its efforts to support ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting. This would likely entail initially relying on the strengthening of local actors to assist the monitoring process, including parties to the conflict as well as civil society. Such strengthening could include training, equipping, resourcing these actors, coupled with limited expansion of a UN (international) presence to liaise with and support these local actors as conditions allow. 

22. At the same time, the option of greater direct international involvement in ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting is something we must all work towards. This means we must collectively understand and accept the risks involved. This will require real and a sustained commitment from the parties to the conflict and key stakeholders to create and maintain the necessary conditions. Monitoring is not an alternative or substitute for such political will. 

23. We need to capitalise on any opportunity to reduce the horrific levels of violence and the suffering of civilians. To move fast in the event of a cessation of hostilities or, better still, a ceasefire, we will also need to draw upon the expertise, skills and contributions of the international community. The earlier these are identified the better.

Mr. President, 

24. As suggested above, beyond alleviating the suffering of Syrians, CBMs are also important for building credibility and confidence in the process and are thus expected of all parties, Syrian and non.  If we reach the point of having talks in Geneva at the end of this month, it would be important that parties accept the following: 1) the invitation without preconditions; 2) that the agenda is set by resolution 2254; and, 3) the mediator’s role in setting the work plan and format best suited to deal with the items above. 

25. I am aware that parties have a different understanding of the concept of talks or formal negotiations.  Some prefer face-to-face negotiations, others reject thematic sub-groups.  I intend to operationally translate this process in organising meetings and engagement as appropriate (plenaries, bi/trilats, caucus meetings, proximity talks).  I simultaneously commit to holding regular process review meetings with the primary parties and ISSG partners.  I will also regularly engage with women and civil society, in an appropriate format and would expect them, and through them the Syrians, to hold the process honest. 

26. In all these matters I will need the full backing of the ISSG – and the Security Council, reinforcing consequences for non-cooperation with the process as determined by the mediator as well as securing non-reprisal against participation in the talks. Further CBMs should be discussed amongst the Syrians, and with ISSG backing, alongside the talks and specificity will depend on how much talks have advanced. I might ask the parties to set up a dedicated working group to this end. 

In conclusion, Mr. President, Members of the Council,

27. The ISSG and the Council have invested heavily in getting this process off the ground. Above all, the Syrians expect progress and a sign of hope the fighting will come to an end soon. The UN is ready to fulfil its task in convening the parties and continues planning for talks with a target date of the 25th. You have my word: invitations will be issued the soonest I am on solid ground.  Talks are important to keep the ‘Vienna momentum', but not at any cost.  Now is the time to avoid that we end up with a stillborn repetition of Geneva II or, worse, a conference linked to an increase of the horrific suffering of the Syrians. 
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