Koenders convenes meeting for Syria envoys in the Netherlands

On Friday foreign minister Bert Koenders opened a meeting for Syria envoys and members of the Syrian opposition. The envoys, mostly diplomats from like-minded countries working to promote Syrian peace talks, are meeting at the minister’s initiative in the Dutch town of Doorn. The focus is on the forthcoming peace negotiations in Geneva.

‘This evening I’ve spoken to representatives of like-minded countries and a number of Syrian opposition members,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘The situation is very urgent. The Geneva talks cannot be allowed to fail. A political comprise and peace are imperative. We also discussed how we can best support the moderate opposition, so that they can combine their efforts and get a solid place at the negotiating table, both at the follow-up talks in Geneva and in future discussions on the political transition.’

On Friday Mr Koenders emphasised the importance of a political solution to the conflict in Syria, but at the same time remained realistic: ‘Drawing attention to the political process is the only way to achieve a sustainable solution,’ he said. ‘But while peace is being discussed in Geneva, the situation in Syria itself remains grave.’

The Syria envoys, including Dutch special envoy Gerard Steeghs, have already played a positive role in advising the opposition in previous Geneva negotiations. It is important that the moderate opposition gets support from the envoys in future talks on the political transition. At the meeting the minister called on the envoys to continue and intensify this support.

The gathering of Syria envoys comes a day after the Netherlands held an expert meeting in The Hague on plans for a UN evidence database for Syria. At the meeting Mr Koenders called for financial and political support for the creation of a database to help combat impunity in Syria.

The Geneva peace negotiations are scheduled to continue on 23 March. The main items on the agenda are inclusive governance, a new constitution, elections and counterterrorism.