Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon calls for the resignation of the governor of the Central Bank

Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon calls for the resignation of the governor of the Central Bank
Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon calls for the resignation of the governor of the Central Bank

The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, praised, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat today (Thursday), the “Arab initiative” with Damascus, stressing the importance of reconciling this initiative with the Moscow track that includes Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, the Syrian government, and the American and European positions. to move towards a political solution.

Pedersen said that Syria is passing through a “defining moment” and Damascus must invest in the “window of opportunity” to move towards a settlement, noting that all countries “support” a “step by step” approach that includes all parties taking “parallel, reciprocal and verifiable” measures regarding the situation. Several issues, including detainees and prisoners, the return of refugees and penalties.

Here is the transcript of the interview, which was conducted online Thursday morning:

* The Arab summit will be held in Jeddah, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will participate for the first time since 2010. What does this mean for the UN envoy?

– We must start by saying that the search for a political solution has been going on for 12 years. We know that the problems are very deep and that there is no easy political solution. But at the same time, we know that there is an agreed international consensus that Security Council Resolution 2254 is the basis for reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Also, we know that although we have an agreement on Resolution 2254, the political process has not achieved the desired progress. Let’s be frank about that.

There are no shortcuts to a political solution to the Syrian crisis, but at the same time, we must welcome the renewed diplomatic interest on Syria. There are different paths and initiatives. We witnessed the meeting between four Arab foreign ministers and their Syrian counterpart in Amman, and several meetings in Moscow that included the Russians, Iranians, Turks, and Syrians, including a quadruple ministerial meeting, and before that a meeting between defense ministers.

Of course, we must remember that after 12 years of war and bloody conflict, the catastrophic earthquakes of last February contributed to the deterioration of the already dire humanitarian situation. In fact, the situation on the ground resulted in symbolic steps being taken by all parties, but they did not lead to changing the situation on the ground and improving the situation of the Syrians.

* Is there no improvement?

– Let me stress, as I said earlier, that we need the cooperation of all the states parties to the Astana process, the Arabs and the main parties. A comprehensive solution to the crisis has not yet been achieved, but we must continue to try. Parallel to recognizing that the status quo is neither acceptable nor sustainable, a way forward must be found. What we see from all the parties and parties meeting in Moscow is that there is an agreement that the continuation of the status quo is unacceptable. Even the western extremities say so. There is a consensus on this. The question is: how do we get things to move forward?

“step by step”

* Does all this make your task easier or more difficult to carry out?

– What is required is that we build on the consensus in order to take concrete steps to implement Resolution 2254. As you know, I proposed a “step by step” approach based on the understanding you mentioned. As you know, I got involved with my Arab friends and the countries parties to the Astana process, the American and European parties, and the Syrian parties.

What is the “step-by-step” approach?

We are trying to take what we call tangible, gradual and reciprocal steps that contribute to advancing the political process. These steps are very important to be parallel and verifiable. It is important that you contribute to changing the reality on the ground.

What do the steps include?

I have identified some steps that can be taken. We all know that the file of detainees, kidnapped and missing persons is very important. As well as the need to provide a safe and dignified environment for the voluntary return of refugees. This is an important step. Also, property rights, homes and land, civil documentation, and compulsory military service must be discussed. In addition, the social peace or things became more important after the earthquake. Penalties should also be discussed.

In general, all parties must engage in a credible political process and put issues on the table. Frankly, I see that, through the discussions I had with all parties, that there are intersections between the different initiatives, despite some differences, which is normal.

You certainly noticed that I said that what we are seeing in Moscow and the Arab initiative may create a new dynamic for movement. And I would say it’s very important that Damascus takes advantage of this opportunity to seriously engage.

No party can solve it alone

* You mentioned “step by step”, which is part of the political solution. This approach was mentioned in the five-year Amman ministerial statement. Do you think that these initiatives will take shape seriously, or is the matter limited to mere statements?

I held good consultations with the foreign ministers of the main Arab countries and the foreign minister of Syria, Faisal al-Miqdad. Everyone knows the main challenges to resolving the Syrian conflict. As I said, the reality on the ground has not changed. Syria is still divided. There are different parties controlling different regions in Syria, in addition to a suffocating economic and humanitarian crisis and the challenge of terrorism and extremism. The Arab parties talk about the problem of drug production and smuggling. All of these matters need deep understanding and appropriate action.

I received positive messages from several Arab foreign ministers to coordinate with the United Nations to address these issues. I look forward after the Arab summit to discuss how to move forward. I also look forward to continuing to consult with the Moscow track. As I said, there are intersections between what the Arabs are discussing and the Moscow Quadruple Path. It is critical that we continue to coordinate and consult.

It must be said, and I repeat, that none of the parties alone can find a solution. Therefore, all parties must be involved. This includes Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Russians, the United States, Europeans, and the Syrian parties. I see that it is my role to bring the Syrian parties around the table to discuss how to advance the political process and radically change the situation on the ground.

Q: Is it true that there is a timetable set by some Arab countries, and they expect Damascus to take action on some issues?

– I do not want to speak on behalf of the Arab countries. We had an excellent discussion and I hope to continue the dialogue, coordination and follow-up to achieve some success on some tracks. This requires intense hard work. The needs in Syria are still enormous and are even more urgent after the earthquake, and it must be ascertained whether there is a serious desire to move forward in a verifiable, parallel and opposite way.

* You noticed a gap between Arab normalization with Damascus and the imposition of additional measures by Western countries, especially the US Congress, against Syria. For you, as a UN envoy, does this facilitate or complicate your task?

– You are right, there is a division in the international community over how to deal with Syria. There is debate in Washington and European capitals about how to deal with the latest developments. My impression is that they all understand and even support the concept of “step by step”. I think, if Damascus gets involved in this process, there will be an opportunity for progress.

Geneva meetings resume

[Asharq Al-Awsat]I heard from sources that the approach to the solution is to offer incentives to Damascus, including the Arab rapprochement, then Damascus should present something tangible on the issue of Captagon and the return of refugees within a period between 4 and 6 months, and that if no progress is achieved, then the Western countries will strengthen their punitive measures against Damascus?

Undoubtedly, the answer to this question lies with Western countries. As for me, the wording is as follows: After 12 years of war and conflict, there are initiatives from the Arabs and the Turks, and the Astana process, which create serious opportunities for moving forward. What we want is for Damascus to respond positively to this matter. If this does not happen, the economic and humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate, and the social fabric will collapse. We are indeed at a defining moment. Statements were issued by Arab officials calling for a new meeting of the Constitutional Committee. This was mentioned in the Amman statement. For my part, I stress the necessity of resuming the Committee’s meetings in Geneva as a first step.

As I said, it is important that the Arab Ministerial Committee, which was formed recently within the framework of the Arab League, play its follow-up role. Serious discussions must be held with Turkey, Iran, Russia, the United States and European countries in coordination with the United Nations as a party capable of speaking to all parties and inviting them to the table, which is not possible for any other party.

Q: Some say that the Moscow quadruple track and the Arab track are alternative tracks to the UN-sponsored Geneva track, and that the biggest victim of all of this is a UN-sponsored process regarding the Constitutional Committee or Resolution 2254?

– As I said, there is space to reconcile this paths. If these paths begin to achieve tangible progress, this matter will support what I want to achieve, which is to move the political process in order to reach a calm, safe and neutral environment that enables us to progress in the political process. As I said earlier, all initiatives are important, but what we must see is more international engagement and a comprehensive vision of what needs to be changed in Syria. It is not easy, but there is a beginning and an opportunity.

What are the next steps you will work on?

– We monitor what is happening in the Moscow track, the Arab initiative, and the situation on the ground, and accordingly, we will determine how to move with the various parties to ensure coordination with the Syrians, the Arabs, Moscow, the United States, and European countries.

We are facing a great challenge. If the main countries do not seriously engage, we will witness a stalemate in the process. My task is to prevent this from happening. The messages I receive from Arab officials are encouraging.

Serious attempt to change the status quo

* What will you say to the Syrians in Damascus, Idlib, Qamishli, and in Syria and abroad, so that they feel that their situation will improve? How do you convince them that the solution is coming?

– I will repeat what I said earlier. I understand their frustration, after 12 years of war and conflict, regarding the lack of progress in the political process. I understand that there are many doubts and disappointments, and that there are political moves that have not changed the situation on the ground. My role and the role of my team is to make this the beginning of real change and change the matter on the ground. If this does not happen, we risk an extension of the war and conflict over the years and a further deterioration in the economic and humanitarian situation. Syrians deserve a glimmer of hope, and to live in security and dignity, whether inside Syria or for those who wish to return and fulfill their legitimate aspirations. The flesh must also be restored to the Syrian society. There is talk among Arab officials about national reconciliation. Let’s hope it’s the start of something new. Is success guaranteed? The important thing is that there is a serious attempt and conviction that the status quo is unacceptable.

* The Syrian political opposition feels abandoned… Is their feeling correct?

– If the intense diplomatic moves that we have witnessed recently lead to a change in the situation on the ground, this will be a source of welcome by all. I understand being skeptical about whether that is even possible.

* At the beginning of 2014, a conference was held in Switzerland to implement the “Geneva Declaration”, and at the end of 2015 a conference was held in Vienna, which resulted in the issuance of Resolution 2254 of the Security Council. In 2023, will we see an international conference, in your presence, to search for a Syrian political solution?

It is too early to predict what will happen. What I want to say is that in order to move forward, all of these initiatives must work together. I want to ensure that all parties are at the table: the Syrian parties, the countries of the Astana process, the Arab parties, the United States and European countries. I will do my best to achieve that.