8355th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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18-Sep-2018 02:26:31
Special Envoy for Syria advocates creation of constitutional committee as Security Council delegates hail Russian-Turkish accord on Idlib buffer zone at 8355th meeting.

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Syria, in its eighth year of war, must not miss an opportunity to create the constitutional committee, the top United Nations official tasked with seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis told the Security Council today, also welcoming the new Russian‑Turkish agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib.

“There is urgency to moving ahead,” said Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, briefing the Council on the Secretary‑General’s latest report (document S/2018/845). “We cannot afford to keep consulting. It is way too easy to say ‘we will keep consulting’.”

Stressing that Syrians look to the United Nations to facilitate a genuine, credible and inclusive process to end the conflict, he said the constitutional committee is a first step and will comprise three groups: the Government of Syria; a broad opposition delegation; and one comprising Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women.

While the first two groups have been accepted, he said stakeholders meeting in Astana on 10 and 11 September deeply questioned the composition of the third group. The next month is critical, he continued, expressing readiness to engage all stakeholders, from international players to the Syrian opposition.

On the Russian‑Turkish agreement, he said diplomacy has produced progress in addressing terrorist threats and protecting 3 million civilians in Idlib, expressing hope the accord will be swiftly implemented.

Also briefing the Council, Mark Lowcock, Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs, said demilitarization in Idlib requires the agreement of all parties. Civilians must be allowed to seek refuge elsewhere.

He said food rations for one week for 350,000 people and non‑food items for 400,000 people have been pre‑positioned in Idlib. Indeed, for civilians, the 17 September agreement could mean merely “a stay of execution” or “the beginning of a reprieve”, the first tiny glint of light at the end of the darkest tunnel.

In the ensuing debate, speakers painted differing pictures of a future Syria, with the representative of the United States calling for the convening of the constitutional committee and urging that a date be set for its first meeting. While the “Astana group” has expressed reservations over membership, said France’s delegate, the time is right to make headway. Establishing a constitutional committee would be a first milestone of establishing peace.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said his country will work towards establishing the constitutional committee. He called for an end to destructive attempts to undermine the achievement of a sustained political settlement, pointing out that the Special Envoy must facilitate, not lead, the process.

Turkey’s delegate explained that, according to the demilitarization agreement, all heavy weaponry will be withdrawn by 10 October, terrorist groups will be removed by 15 October and Turkish‑Russian patrols will be coordinated on both sides of the demilitarized zone. His counterpart from Iran, meanwhile, said the accord is the result of intensive, responsible diplomacy based on the Astana process approach. It is also in line with the views expressed by the Presidents of Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey at the recent Tehran summit to discuss Idlib.

Syria’s delegate said his Government will, without foreign interference, counter terrorism, ensure the return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons, and reconstruct the country, free of terrorists and illegal occupying powers. While not mentioned today, the Russian‑Turkish agreement came about through intensive negotiations between Syria and the Russian Federation, he asserted.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden (also on behalf of Kuwait), Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Poland, Peru, Ethiopia, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.
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