De Mistura: Counter-terrorism basket added to the Geneva dialogue agenda upon Syrian Arab Republic delegation’s request

Geneva, SANA – UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced the conclusion of the fourth round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, describing the meets weren’t always easy but they were constructive.

In a press conference held on Friday evening in Geneva, de Mistura said that a clear agenda for the talks was reach and it includes four baskets, including the counter-terrorism basket which was added based on the request of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation and which involves strategy for fighting terrorism, noting that agreement was reached on a methodology for addressing the four baskets in a parallel manner.

The Envoy said that he expects the sides to move forward with implementing a framework agreement that contains a political package for the negotiations which should lead to implementing Security Council resolution no. 2254, elaborating by saying that the four baskets in the agenda consist of one on establishing credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian governance within six months, one that includes other issues that he hopes are also achieved in six months for setting a timetable, one for holding elections after drafting a constitution within 18 months, and the fourth and final basket is for counter-terrorism.

De Mistura said that the Astana and Geneva efforts complement each other and that he supports the ceasefire mechanism, adding that he seeks to facilitate other issues like humanitarian access and releasing prisoners.

He pointed out that although the goal was to reach direct dialogue in Astana and Geneva, they noticed that indirect negotiations might be better, noting that he noticed that progress has been made in this round of talks and that there’s need for a single opposition delegation, adding that he will continue efforts in this direction.

The Envoy said that he will update the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council on what happened in Geneva, and based on the indications they will give, he intends to invite the participants to a fifth round of talks in March.

He also affirmed that the idea of there being a military option in Syria is a fantasy, as the solution can only be a political one that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.

De Mistura said that he feels that all sides are ready for dialogue and this is what’s important, and that he feels that there’s forward momentum.

On a relevant note, head of the delegation of the “Moscow platform” opposition group Hamza Munzir said in a press conference after meeting de Mistura that including the counter-terrorism basket in the agenda is essential for the platform, stressing the need to form a single opposition delegation removed from “hegemony or recklessness.”

In a similar press conference, head of the delegation of the “Cairo platform” Jihad Makdesi said that the delegation accepted the procedural statement distributed by de Mistura among the delegations and accepted in principle adding any basket as long as progress is made in parallel and the result is announced as a single package, adding that the platform reached a coordination mechanism with the “Riyadh delegation.”

The 4th round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva began on February 23rd.

Hazem Sabbagh

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