Q - With Staffan de Mistura still planning to lead talks in Geneva at the end of October, what is the status of the contact group supported by France? Will it be operational so that it can put pressure on the warring parties at the next round of discussions in Switzerland?
A - We want to remind you of the reasons the President proposed to establish this contact group on Syria. We are entering a new phase in the conflict in Syria that will see the defeat of Daesh, but there is no horizon for ending the civil war. And without a political solution to end it, the country will remain a breeding ground for terrorism, and thus a threat to us.
Since 2011, all negotiating formats aimed at finding a political solution to this conflict and implementing resolution 2254 have failed. The progress of the Geneva process has fallen short of expectations, despite the unflagging efforts of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. The Astana process did help us move forward with respect to a ceasefire and de-escalation, but it is not designed to resolve the political issues that fall within the scope of the UN. Moreover, it could lead to a de facto partition of Syria.
The implementation of resolution 2254 presumes that countries capable of pushing a resolution to the conflict would help the Syrians reach an agreement under the auspices of the UN. That’s why the President proposed to establish a small working group with the permanent members of the Security Council at its core. The alignment of P5 members is necessary to keep these talks moving forward.
The discussions in New York were constructive, thanks to meetings between P5 political directors; the many conversations between the President and his Russian, American, Iranian, and Turkish counterparts and representatives of the Syrian opposition; and the P5 meeting chaired by the UN secretary-general on September 21.
Syria was the main point on the agenda of that meeting. Jean-Yves Le Drian presented the contact group proposal to his partners. They all endorsed this approach to supporting efforts toward the political solution sought by Staffan de Mistura. They all agree to take part in this collective dynamic. It was therefore decided to give the members of the P5 a few weeks to refine the parameters for implementing this initiative, bring together the important actors that are now meeting in various formats, and find the diplomatic momentum for the political transition, under the auspices of the UN and in conjunction with Staffan de Mistura.