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memri
November 5, 2018 No.
7747

Syrian Regime Thwarts De Mistura's Efforts to Form Constitutional Committee – Editor Of Syrian Government Daily: De Mistura Was The Worst Of All UN Envoys To Syria; He Is An Accomplice To Terror Against The Syrian People

On October 17, 2018, UN Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that he will step down at the end of November "for personal reasons," after serving in the post for over four years.[1] The announcement was welcomed by the Syrian regime, which over these years has frequently expressed displeasure with de Mistura's performance.[2] In the recent weeks, the tension between de Mistura and the regime reached a new high in light of the envoy's efforts to form a constitutional committee for Syria, in accordance with decisions taken at the January 2018 Sochi Congress, and due to the regime's opposition to de Mistura's involvement in the appointment of some of the committee members. The strained relations were manifest in the cold reception the envoy received during his latest visit to Damascus, in blunt statements made to him by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem, and also in scathing criticism against him in the Syrian press. Conspicuous among the critical articles was one by 'Ali Qassem, editor of the Al-Thawra daily, who accused de Mistura of supporting terror and hinted that Damascus would even take legal action against him.


De Mistura in a meeting with Al-Mu'allem (image: SANA, Syria, October 24, 2018)

 

This report reviews the background for the current tension between the regime and de Mistura, and presents excerpts from Walid Al-Mu'allem's statements in his meeting with the envoy, as reported in the Syrian press, and from'Ali Qassem's article.

Syrian Foreign Minister To De Mistura: The Constitution Is A Sovereign Syrian Issue To Be Decided By The Syrian People Without Outside Intervention

As stated, the Syrian regime's displeasure with de Mistura increased recently due to his intensive efforts to promote the forming of a constitutional committee, in accordance with decisions taken at the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue, hosted by Russia in Sochi on January 30, 2018,[3] and at the September 14, 2018 meeting in Geneva between representatives of Russia, Turkey, Iran and de Mistura himself.

The constitutional committee, defined in the Sochi final statement as a committee "for drafting of a constitutional reform as a contribution to the political settlement under the UN auspices in accordance with the Security Council Resolution 2254,"[4]  is to comprise 150 members, divided into three equal groups representing the Syrian regime, the opposition and civil society, respectively. Furthermore, 15 representatives from each group will comprise a smaller core committee. It was further decided that the UN, through de Mistura, would be in charge of selecting the civil society representatives.[5]

Following the Sochi Congress, the Syrian regime sharply criticized its outcomes and especially the role assigned to de Mistura regarding the constitutional committee,[6] and presented terms that divested the constitutional committee of meaning while also acting to thwart the efforts of the UN envoy. For example, the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that, unless it was guaranteed a majority in the committee, the regime would refuse to discuss the constitution at all.[7]

The regime's hostility towards de Mistura was especially apparent during his visit to Damascus on October 24, 2018, during which Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem informed him point blank that the regime opposed his role regarding the committee, saying: "The activity of the constitutional committee must correspond to the principle stated in the UN Charter, in international law and in Security Council resolutions regarding Syria, [namely the principle] of commitment to Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and the unity of its people. Furthermore, the Syrian people alone has the right to decide the future of its country. The entire process must be led by the Syrians and must be their [exclusive] property – for the constitution and everything related to it are purely sovereign issues to be decided by the Syrian people without outside intervention, through which certain elements and states are trying to impose their will on the Syrians."[8]

The day following de Mistura's visit, Al-Watan reported that, although the UN deputy spokesman  had announced that the visit would last several days, in practice it lasted only several hours and included only one meeting, with Al-Mu'allem. According to the daily, "this may reflect the displeasure expressed by Damascus regarding the task [de Mistura] meant to undertake regarding the [makeup of] the part of the constitutional committee that represents civil society." The daily added that the envoy "did not meet with any [civil society representatives] or make any contact with them, but quickly ended his last visit to Damascus."[9]

On October 26, two days after his visit and his meeting with Al-Mu'allem, de Mistura informed the UN in a briefing that the Syrian regime had expressed opposition to the UN involvement in the forming of the committee.[10]

Editor Of Syrian Government Daily: De Mistura Heard He Is Unwelcome In Damascus; He Supported Terror And Will Suffer Consequences

As stated, the regime's fury at de Mistura was also reflected in articles in the Syrian government and pro-government press, which accused the envoy of serving the interests of "Syria's enemies" and acting to shape the political process in Syria according to their will.[11] The editor of the government daily Al-Thawra, 'Ali Qassem, wrote that de Mistura had been the worst of all UN envoys to Syria, and that he is largely responsible for and an accomplice to terror in Syria. He stressed that the envoy's mishandling of the Syria crisis cannot be forgiven, and even hinted that the Syrian regime may bring charges against him in order to expose his misconduct. He wrote:

"UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura insisted on pursuing a deviant policy of overstepping the limits of his mission even after he announced the date of his departure from office, when he was expected to start packing his bags, gathering up his papers and halting numerous processes that should stop once his tenure ends. His tenure was longer than [that of other UN envoys] in the past,[12] and will surely last longer [than that of] his successors: [it lasted] four years and five months, during which there were burning times and upheavals, and [much of what has happened in Syria] will be blamed on this role.

"[De Mistura's] conspicuous insistence on continuing his role until the very last moment is especially questionable in light of his latest visit to Damascus, where he surely knows he is not welcome due to his misguided conduct that often prolonged the crisis and allowed the terrorists and their sponsors to escalate their crimes against the Syrian people. The UN envoy knows that he will not achieve in one month what he failed to achieve in four years and four months, and that what he failed to achieve in a climate of pressure, intimidation, threats and warnings [directed at the Assad regime] will not be achieved during the [current] months, when the political climate is one of Syrian victory...

"We do not blame the UN envoy. Like all other UN envoys, he is ultimately just a small detail among the factors that create the international balance. At best, [these envoys] come to bridge gaps between rival forces in the arena of international conflict. But Mr. de Mistura wanted to be holier than the Pope, and expressed more sympathy for the terrorists than they received [even] from those who sponsored, protected, funded and relied on them. It seems that, on numerous occasions, he even decided to exceed his ability and role…

"In his capacity as UN envoy... he wants to know where [the efforts to] form a constitutional committee stand. It is our responsibility [to stop him], for he tried to promote messages that the hostile array [of anti-regime forces] was unable to formulate and promote. It was also our responsibility to make sure that, [during his visit to Damascus], he would hear the Syrian message like never before and [understand] that it is unequivocal and has only one meaning: You have arrived at the wrong address, knocked on the wrong door and come at the wrong time. Worse, you chose circumstances in which there is no room for a truce.

"What de Mistura has forgotten is that the Syrian people and the Syrian state have a long list of [accusations] to direct at him, starting at the moment he accepted the appointment, [a list] that will haunt him for many years after he leaves office and may remain in his file and in the UN's file even longer than that. It will not be forgotten or forgiven, even when it is in the past, and, more importantly, this is not negotiable[13] and is not [a case of] personal score-settling. It is all for the sake of a truth that [de Mistura] knows better than anyone else, [and is a message] for behind-the-scenes [elements] whom he supplied with information and through whom he relayed information to [other elements] in dark cellars and closed rooms who were jointly pulling the strings of the plot against Syria... He was a witness and a partner in all of this – especially [a partner] of those who caused all this injustice against the Syrians and allowed themselves and others to carry out the aggression all these years. [De Mistura] had a greater role than other [UN envoys] and he is a thousand times more culpable than they."[14]

 


[1] Reuters.com, October 17, 2018.

[3] Mid.ru, January 31, 2018.

[4] Un.org, October 26, 2018.

[5] Syria.news, September 11, 2018.

[7] Al-Watan (Syria), October 23, 2018.

[8] SANA (Syria), October 24, 2018.

[9] Al-Watan (Syria), October 25, 2018.

[10] Un.org, October 26, 2018.

[11] Al-Watan (Syria) October 21, 2018; Al-Thawra (Syria), October 19, 2018.

[12] Kofi Annan, the UN's first envoy to Syria, served in this position for less than a year, and his successor, the Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi, served about two years.

[13] The author may be hinting that the Syrian regime will take legal action against de Mistura.

[14] Al-Thawra (Syria), October 26, 2018.