8434th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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20-Dec-2018 02:35:17
Security Council must finally unite to end ‘dirty, brutal, horrific war’, Special Envoy for Syria urges in final briefing at 8434th meeting.

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Providing his final briefing on the Syrian political process to the Security Council today, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General appealed to the Council to finally unite in efforts to end what he called the “dirty, brutal, horrific war”.

“We need a renewed sense of common purpose and concerted action in the Council if 2019 is to be the real turning point for Syria”, Staffan de Mistura said as he summed up his efforts of the past four years to facilitate a Syrian-led political process, most recently through urging the convening of a Constitutional Committee.

“Make no mistake: as with me, my successor’s success will depend on your unity and purpose to empower and support the United Nations, and pressure all parties to begin real dialogue, negotiation and compromise to address the grievances of the Syrian people and implement resolution 2254,” he said, ahead of shaking hands with each Council member.

He said that the key to implementing the resolution, which mandated the United Nations to play a central role in facilitating the political process, is constitutional reform leading to United Nations-supervised elections in a safe, calm and neutral environment. Evoking the hopes raised by the Sochi Final Statement in early 2018 after a gathering of Syrians convened in that city by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran, collectively known as the Astana guarantors, he described his hard work since then to facilitate the convening of the constitutional committee, agreed to be held by the end of 2018.

Most problematic in that regard, he recounted, was agreement on a list of participants for the Middle Third group of the committee – meant to be mainly civil society – in a way that was credible, balanced and inclusive. That was the focus of his previous briefing and his final weeks in his position (see press release SC/13590 of 19 November 2018).

The United Nations alone, he stressed, has the legitimacy and mandate to “bless” a Constitutional Committee, accompanied by parallel efforts to ensure a full ceasefire, see that detainees and abductees are released, build confidence and create the environment needed for elections and return of displaced persons.

He expressed deep concern about recent, credible reports of intimidation and coercion of persons reportedly on the list for the Constitutional Committee. Asserting the importance of Syrian civil society actors, including women, in peace efforts, he urged the members of the Security Council, the international community and the Syrian parties more broadly to “listen to their voices, to protect them and involve them meaningfully in the long and challenging path forward”.

Following the briefing, members of the Security Council paid tribute to the Special Envoy’s work, pledged support for his successor and reaffirmed their support for a Syrian-led political process shepherded by the United Nations, as laid out by resolution 2254 (2015). Speakers again agreed that the first step should be the soonest possible convening of the Constitutional Committee. They also called for continuing and reinforcing the Idlib ceasefire.

Representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France, members of the so-called Small Group on Syria, again expressed concern about delays in the convening of the Constitutional Committee, stressing that the Astana group had committed to holding it by the end of the year. He called on the group to work with the United Nations to ensure a credible and inclusive list of participants. The representative of the United States added that no aid for reconstruction should be provided to Syria until irreversible political progress occurs.

The representative of France, in addition, reacting to reports that the United States had decided to withdraw all its troops from Syria, expressed concern about a resurgence of terrorism accompanied by humanitarian disaster. “Da’esh has weakened but the fight is not over,” he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation announced that although certain Council members have ignored it, there was a breakthrough on the composition of the Constitutional Committee two days ago, between the Syrian National Congress and the Syrian opposition, with assistance from the Astana guarantors. With such progress, the moment has come for reconstruction. His delegation is not trying to create the impression that everything is fine in Syria. Acknowledging that problems persist, he said, however, that “the situation in Syria has changed for the better”.

Similarly, the representatives of Iran and Turkey described progress in the Astana group’s consultations, with Turkey’s representative calling the guarantors’ constructive engagement “a game-changer” both politically and on the ground. Taking stock of joint efforts to maintain the ceasefire in Idlib, he said the guarantors would continue to work on the implementation of the Sochi Memorandum. The international community should facilitate, not dictate, the Syrian political process, the Iranian delegate stressed.

Syria’s representative, in that vein, said that his Government has demonstrated openness and cooperation with the United Nations, but Syrians alone must decide their country’s future, without foreign interference. Adding that the Government has provided the list of invited participants for the Constitutional Committee, he stressed the need for a Syrian-owned committee process, emphasizing that no one should impose an artificial deadline on its work.

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

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 12:44 p.m.

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