Following the return of Syria to the Arab League, and President Bashar al-Assad's attendance at the Arab Summit in Jeddah, the Syrian issue has gained much more diplomatic traction on both regional and international levels.
Following all these developments, Al Majalla asked Geir Pederson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria important questions related to the Syrian issue and the steps that different stakeholders have recently taken.
Pederson sees the recent developments as an opportunity that needs to be nurtured in order to build confidence and start moving toward a political solution.
He said that these efforts must be collaborative and no one party can solve the problem on its own. Despite international divisions over Syria, all parties agree that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
Pederson, who took office 4 years ago, emphasised the need to move the process forward through the ‘step-for-step’ initiative and to convince Damascus that the time has come to end the long conflict, adding that for reconciliation to take place, regional and international actors need to do away with the zero-sum game mentality.
He acknowledged the importance of the Arab role in moving the Syrian process forward to solve the issue of refugees and displaced, under the UN ‘umbrella’.
He noted that Syria's various stakeholders — which include the Arabs, Americans, Iranians, Turks and Russians — now have a chance to make a positive contribution by implementing confidence-building measures until core issues can be addressed.
He said there is hope yet for Syria and that he is optimistic to reach a situation whereby the aspirations of the Syrian people are addressed and Syria regains its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
"If anyone has the potential to do it, it is the Syrians," he said.
The discussion was conducted at the office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria in Geneva.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
The UN has been involved in the Syrian crisis for over 12 years, and until now there is no political settlement and no implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions of the Geneva communique whatsoever. Could the UN have played the role differently to achieve any possible breakthrough over the past 12 years?
Let us start by reminding ourselves that, from the very beginning, there has been deep international division on how to approach the Syrian crisis.
You will recall that, in the first months, it was not possible to adopt any Security Council resolution because of the Russian side as they thought that the lesson they learnt from Libya was to prevent any resolution that they thought could open a route for regime change in Syria.
It was immediately one of the big issues, and then there were ups and downs until we had the adoption of security council resolution 2254 on December 2015.
That was quite an ambitious resolution based on a new international consensus. For the UN what is unique about us is that we are the only player accepted by all parties to convene intra-Syrian negotiations. This went on through several different routes and did not produce any outcome.
However, at the same time, I think it is extremely important that I emphasise that we are still committed to this and I reminded the Security Council many times that we are not in a situation where one player can solve this conflict.
The UN, as I said many times, cannot solve this conflict alone of course. We need cooperation from the Syrian parties and we need international cooperation.
What we have realised through the years is that many players can block a solution and that many have indeed blocked the solution for the last 12 years. My message is sort of the same, to solve this conflict we need a coordinated multi-lateralled effort and that is what the UN brings to the table.
All of those with keys to the solution, from the Syrian parties to foreign forces with boots on the ground and those states imposing sanctions. No one else could bring all those different forces together.