8260th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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16-May-2018 01:10:31
Amid unprecedented confrontations over Syria, ‘Careful Diplomacy’ vital to support de-escalation, avert miscalculations, Special Envoy tells Security Council at 8260th meeting.

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The intensity of international confrontations over Syria during the last month were unprecedented since 1973, the Special Envoy told the Security Council today, underscoring the need for “careful diplomacy” to support de-escalation, avoid miscalculations and facilitate genuine communication about sustainably ending the conflict.

Staffan de Mistura, speaking via videoconference from Geneva, detailed air strikes carried out by the United States, France and the United Kingdom near Damascus and Homs on 13 April, as well as dozens of alleged and confirmed strikes by Israel across the country on 29 April, 8 May and between 9 and 10 May, targeting presumed Iranian and Syrian military targets.

While he could not independently verify every aspect of those events, the issue of chemical weapons was intimately related to heightened tensions. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for the Council to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for such use in Syria.

More broadly, he said evacuations from eastern Ghouta were being repeated in the eastern Qalamoun area, southern Damascus and northern rural Homs. He described a pattern of military air strikes, followed by a negotiation and an agreement for the evacuation of civilians and fighters unwilling to remain under Syrian Government control or Russian Federation protection guarantees. In Idlib, such agreements were being discussed — but in reverse: those in Government‑controlled Fouah and Kefraya were considering evacuating after years of attacks from surrounding areas.

He feared that escalation in Idlib, Daraa and the north-east could incur risks to global peace and security, as those areas contained external international forces. At the ninth high-level Astana meeting on 15 May, particularly on Idlib, parties had discussed how to avoid such confrontation, in full respect of Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

He had engaged with a spectrum of stakeholders and identified options to relaunch the United Nations facilitated Geneva process. He also had assessed options to revive intra-Syrian talks, notably through forums that functioned within the framework of resolution 2254 (2015).

Throughout, he had called for robust international dialogue and consensus on de-escalation, confidence-building and creating minimum conditions for a credible peace process. That process itself must be revived, in terms of the constitutional committee and initial steps towards the establishment of a safe, neutral environment. “We stand ready to facilitate discussions on both,” he said.

Following his briefing, Syria’s delegate accused the United States and the United Kingdom of supporting terrorist groups in his country. They claimed to seek a political solution, yet had exploited the United Nations by pressuring his Government as a way of carrying out a hegemon agenda.

He said the legal and constitutional obligation set forth in Council resolutions on combating terrorism had obliged Syria to take military operations in eastern Ghouta to free civilians from terrorist groups. Stressing that Israel’s aggression would not have been possible without the United States support, he said Syria would fend off all such hostility.

The United States delegate supported Israel’s right to defend itself. Calling on Iran, Hizbullah and other proxy parties to halt attacks, she said the Council should pressure Iran to stop provocative actions in Syria. The United Kingdom’s delegate, along similar lines, called on the Russian Federation and Iran to encourage Syria to set aside a military solution and engage with the United Nations. “It is not us in the West that are stopping that from happening,” she said.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, meanwhile, said the strikes by those countries had breached international law. Efforts by the Astana guarantor countries were leading to the elimination of terrorist groups in Syria. He said today’s meeting was about Syria, not Iran, and asked about conditions in the territory of Syria controlled by the United States.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Kazakhstan and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 11:24 a.m.
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