8383rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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26-Oct-2018 01:39:53
Damascus has rejected prospective members of proposed constitutional committee, Special Envoy for Syria tells Security Council in briefing at 8383rd meeting.

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Officials in Damascus have rejected the United Nations formulation of a list of participants to make up a constitutional committee intended to move the political process in Syria forward, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria told the Security Council today.

Reaffirming the urgent need to convene the proposed constitutional committee as quickly as possible, Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said by teleconference from Beirut: “We do have a serious challenge, let’s be frank.” He briefed the Council after his 24 October consultations in Damascus with Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister aimed at trying to resolve outstanding issues in convening the constitutional committee. Its formation was approved by the Sochi agreement, signed by the Government of Syria and the Astana guarantors, comprising the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran.

Today’s meeting followed up on the Special Envoy’s 17 October briefing (see press release SC/13543) in which he asserted the importance of convening the committee to seize the political momentum generated by recent agreements on Idlib and vowed to vigorously pursue progress “until the last hour” of his tenure at the end of November. During that briefing, he also signalled apparent Government dissatisfaction with the list of civil society participants proposed for the committee, which was drawn up by the United Nations in consultation with the guarantors and in accordance with the Sochi conference.

In Damascus, he said, the Foreign Minister’s objections to the list were related to concerns over respect for Syria’s sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States. Giving assurances of his adherence to and respect for those principles, the Special Envoy said that he offered to work out a list immediately with the Syrian Government, but the Foreign Minister deferred such discussions until the next meeting with the Astana guarantors.

He went on to emphasize that he is not opposed to constructive suggestions regarding the list as long as it maintain the credibility, balance and legitimacy of civil society groups, as well as the substantive participation of women. At the same time, he urged all stakeholders not to miss out on the opportunity presented by the Idlib agreements. He reiterated his pledge to exhaust every avenue to progress, noting that important meetings are planned in the next few weeks for that purpose.

Following the briefing, Security Council members affirmed their strong support for his efforts and for convening the constitutional committee, as a first step towards a Syrian-led political solution to the devastating eight-year-long conflict. Some members expressed disappointment with the setback occasioned by Syria’s rejection of the United Nations list of civil society participants, emphasizing that the constitutional committee should meet by the end of November.

In that vein, the representatives of the United States, France and the United Kingdom – members of the “Small Group” for progress in Syria – warned against further delays, saying they risked squandering the opportunities presented by the Idlib agreements. They also opposed the notion that United Nations participation is inappropriate or threatens Syria’s sovereignty.

Representatives of China, Russian Federation and Bolivia, among others, welcomed the Special Envoy’s Damascus meeting as indicating diplomatic activity that could lead to a Syrian-led political solution, and to progress soon, with due regard to Syria’s sovereignty. The formulation of the committee should meet the concerns of all parties, they emphasized.

The Russian Federation’s representative stressed that diplomatic progress requires patience. Expressing scepticism over the motives of those who called today’s meeting so soon after the Special Envoy’s previous briefing, he said there is no precedent for briefings following individual meetings that are part of a sustained diplomatic effort.

Syria’s representative, rejecting allegations that his country is not cooperating with the United Nations, noted that the Government of Syria participated in the Sochi conference in good faith. The decision to establish a constitutional committee was first reached there, and Syria is now actively working to establish that committee with the facilitation – but not the guardianship - of the United Nations. “Establishing artificial deadlines will not help us to realize our aspirations,” he said. Warning States not to rely on the “arrogance of strength”, he added that the Charter prohibits all countries from meddling in the internal affairs of others.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Netherlands, Peru, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 9:03 a.m. and ended at 10:43 a.m.
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